Assignment Afghanistan: Strong will and strong wifi help Colorado families stay in touch


Keeping in touch with family in Colo. from Afghanistan

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BAGRAM, Afghanistan - Inside the razor wire - surrounded by the concrete blast walls that circle Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan - with the constant hum of military aircraft buzzing overhead.

Not exactly the best place to honeymoon.

Yet this is where helicopter pilot and Air Force Captain Mike Kingry from Golden, Colo. is spending some of the first few months of his married life.

“We met actually at an Air Force school, and we got married in Vegas,” Kingry told FOX 31 Denver.

Kingry and his wife McKay were only married four months when he was sent away to Afghanistan.

Now she's in Japan (where he's normally stationed), while he's here at war with a dangerous job: flying modified Blackhawk helicopters into the battle field to pick up pilots who've been shot down, or soldiers who've been injured.  All the while, he’s sometimes being shot at himself.

“One of the (helicopters) we had took a bullet hole… took an AK round in the front flare bucket and punched all the flares off,” Kingry said.

It's no doubt hard to keep a new bride and the family back home in Colorado calm, when Afghanistan is your office.  Service members have to be careful how many details they give to loved ones.  And speaking of that, how do you stay connected with those loved ones, when you're at war?

Turns out, all it takes is some will, and some wifi.

When it's nighttime in Bagram, It's morning coffee time for Deanna Leyba's husband back home in Colorado.  And they catch up, with a little help from the Facetime app on their iPads.

“How's Alex today?” Leyba asked her husband during a recent Facetime chat, inquiring about one of their children.

“Exhausted out of her mind, just like her dad,” Leyba’s husband Ernie replied.

Captain Leyba left her husband, kids and job as an orthopedic nurse in Colorado Springs to come serve out her duties with the Air Force Reserves  as a medic in Afghanistan.

She leads members of the 34th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron deployed to Bagram, as they go out on so-called “bandage flights” across the war-torn country, picking up wounded soldiers and treating them mid-air en route to military hospitals.

She's been gone for months - but tries to Facetime with the family daily, and sends text messages throughout the day.

War time communication has come a long way from the old days - when it took six weeks to get a letter back home.  And when the signal isn't freezing up, they talk about the same things married couples sitting in the same room do.  The schedules, the weather, the kids.

“Yes, she needs to get to school on time,” Leyba reminded her husband as their Facetime chat drew to a close.

Saying goodbye is never easy, when an iPad camera is the only face to face contact you've had with the people you love most, for more than three months.  But captain Leyba - and the hundreds of other Colorado service members currently deployed have something to look forward to.  The end.

“I have 10,000 kisses to go home to,” Leyba said.

The longest war in U.S. history is winding down.  And by the end of next year, most everyone sent to Afghanistan will finally be home from war.  After tremendous personal sacrifice.

Whether it's Senior Airman Erin Smith from Parker, Colo., working on a nursing degree at the University of Colorado – Denver, when she's not deployed to Afghanistan, helping save lives.

Or Chris Basham of Fountain, Colo.  Just 21 years old - barely old enough to buy a beer - but facing the very adult task of serving his country in a deadly war zone.

"I miss my family a bunch.  I'm really close to all my family that's back home in the states and I'm not more than 45 minutes away from any of them so I miss them a lot," Basham said.

Or that newlywed pilot, Mike Kingry from Golden.  Managing to somehow find marital bliss here, in a place that isn't exactly ideal for a honeymoon.

Tomorrow night - our across-the-globe journey continues - telling the stories of Colorado service members - hard at work saving lives in the war zone.  Please join us for a Fox 31 Denver half-hour special: Assignment Afghanistan. An in-depth look at the Colorado heroes - and the hard work they do.  That's Friday night at 9:30 on FOX 31 Denver.

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