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Saturday, Nov 24 2012 12:02 AM

Holiday greetings overseas

By Katie Avery

It's always nice when the entire family can get together for the holidays. But what do you do when you have a loved one serving overseas? With technology and a little help from one local business, it's possible to stay in touch with those who are far away.

Jim La Mar, president of Greenlawn Mortuary, has a special way to connect locals with their family members overseas this holiday season.

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Jim La Mar, president of Greenlawn Mortuary, connect local families with their loved ones serving in the military overseas during the holidays with video greeting cards.

For those deployed halfway around the world, even social media may not be readily available. So La Mar came up with what he calls a "living Christmas card" -- a short video that can be emailed wherever.

The folks at Greenlawn use a webcasting service to film funerals, which allows people who can't attend services to still pay their respects. La Mar had the idea to extend this service to military families last year when he wanted to do something for the troops, he said.

"We just figure for us, it's a service we already provide for; why don't we open it up to people who serve our country?" he said.

Families who want to take advantage of this service can call Greenlawn, setup a time and film their greetings. Then families are given a password-protected link to the video that can be emailed to loved ones, so they can see your face and hear your voice.

Each family member can say something personal. The video is also archived and accessible at any time, allowing loved ones around the world to view it at their convenience as many times as they want.

La Mar will be contacting local veterans to participate in the "living Christmas card" this year to give them a chance to thank those currently serving. Veterans already participate in military funeral services where they personally thank the families for their sacrifice. La Mar said there is a kindred spirit between military service members, and that a veteran can truly say, "I know what you are sacrificing."

This video card service is free and available to anyone who has family serving their country.

"If it (makes) a difference in those people's lives, then it's worth it," La Mar said.

Call 397-9541 to setup an appointment. A few other ways to connect with loved ones this holiday season.

* Email and social media: These networking tools are not just for kids. Free accounts including Facebook and Twitter are useful. Either party can send private messages, multiple group messages and upload pictures.

* Skype and video calling: Skype is a free video phone service that allows you to call anyone with a Skype account. You can also make calls to landlines and cellphones for a fee. Google has a similar video service for Gmail members.

* WhatsApp, Textfree and other texting programs: If you and your loved one has a smartphone or tablet device, several text messaging applications can be used with Wi-Fi and cellular services to send texts internationally for free.

* International calling cards: Soldiers serving overseas don't always have the time or the means to get on social media or use computers; some fall back on landline phone calls. Calling cards are relatively cheap to purchase, and there are services available that will donate calling cards to soldiers.

* Letters postcards and packages: Everyone loves getting an old fashioned letter. It gives any message a personal touch. And sending packages can be a part of gift-giving this season. Just be aware of postage rates and customs requirements for sending overseas. Our Town: Holiday greetings overseas

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