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Live chat: Military wife Emily Franks on war and social media

By Rocci Fisch

Emily Franks, a military wife and member of Gator Company family, a social media support site for spouses of servicemen in Afghanistan, will be chatting online via Facebook on Friday, Nov. 5, at 1 p.m. ET to discuss what it's like living with the anxiety caused by having a loved one deployed in a dangerous war zone and how the group stays informed and helps each other cope via social media.

Based on Greg Jaffe's article: Facebook brings the Afghan war to Fort Campbell.

Emily Franks, military wife and member of Gator Company
Rocci Fisch, washingtonpost.com moderator



Chat Transcript (note: this is an incomplete transcript missing the first several questions in this live chat):

Ryan Kellett: Thanks Emily for taking our questions! This is great. My question is: Do you always make meet other families in person and then later connect online? Or do you sometimes meet online and then only later meet in real life?

Emily Franks: For our families that are here... I get the chance to meet them first. For our parents who live farther away... I get the joy of meeting many of them when our boys comes home (I say boys, because we are infantry and don't have any women in our unit... not trying to ruffle feathers)

Rocci Fisch: Can you tell us about the June 7 explosion and how the military wives handled the news.

Emily Franks: We all handle it in our own way... Personally, I found myself praying a whole lot and trying to be the support for our widows and families that I would want if the role were reversed.

Debbi Morello: Thank you Emily!

Emily Franks: I don't think any of us were the same after that day. It rocked us all to the core.

Emily Franks: We lost 5 soldiers that day, my husband lost a best friend, a guy he looked at like a little brother, and his hero... so while we were trying to deal with our own losses, trying to love our soldiers and understand how they were in all this

Rocci Fisch: I imagine you did a lot of consoling about that. Can you tell us about this?

Emily Franks: It was a new situation for all of us. The parents of our new soldiers were new to ALL of this... having a soldier, facing a deployment... and now the news that their kids were dealing with the loss of fellow soldiers

Emily Franks: There were a lot of questions... how could this have happened, what do we do now, how are our soldiers doing, what do we do next, etc. It is the worst nightmare of all military families... the death of soldiers.

Rocci Fisch: How did you come to be the leader of the group?

Emily Franks: Kitty Hinds, the wife of our Company Commander at the time, asked me to help her out. Typically the CO's wife (Company commander) is the head of the FRG for the unit. She had a lot on her plate and asked if I would be willing to step up and help. After some thought, I said yes. Whatever I can do to support my husband and the soldiers I will do...

Emily Franks: It allows the soldiers to focus, knowing that their families are being taken care of on this side.

Rocci Fisch: The article mentioned that the Army uses phone trees to notify the families and that you read a "script" to spouses. Please describe what you might say and how do you adjust to being the bearer of such bad news?

Emily Franks: The message comes down from our Battalion Rear Detachment. It gives us the information that is releasable... But the call would go something like this...

Emily Franks: Hello, this is Emily with A Co FRG. First off, your son is safe!

Emily Franks:?(or soldier, or husband... all depending on who I'm talking to)

Emily Franks: The fact that news hit facebook before the families had been notified was infuriating, honestly. I spoke to several old soldiers that day and asked them to please take their posts down. It wasn't good... but it showed the Army that there were changes that needed to be made in how things flow down. Social media has taken hold, and it's time to adjust fire.

Terra Zvara: Huge fan of this chat, not a huge fan of this chat method. I can't see the entire chat so I can't see what the beginning of the chat was. Is there a way to remedy this?

Emily Franks: And then would go on with "I'm sorry to have to call you with some bad news. on such and such date, such and such soldier was killed due to injuries received from an IED while on a mounted patrol in such and such area"... obviously, just an example.

Janette Smith: Em has been tireless in her support of us Army moms (as well as wives) and I have been made calm by her no-nonsense and cool manner concerning events. This is my son's first deployment and it has not been easy. She keeps me in the loop and keeps me from going loopy.

Kathy Branch-Jones: It seems that the Army needs to update the notification process. So they can be ahead of the Social Media. Though, I know it takes a lot to change the Military....

Rocci Fisch: That posting was the Washington Post story by Greg Jaffe.

Emily Franks: Heidi... reach out. Connect with other military spouses, either in your husbands unit, or otherwise. The FRG is a good way to do that. And if you are totally new to all this, I would go pick up the book Married to the Military. The cover is Pink Camo... you can't miss it. It is a great resource to new wives and families

Deborah Meader: My impression, from the article, is that daily communication with one's deployed loved one isn't rare. Is that true? Will he be able to communicate through his cell or by email on a regular basis?

Emily Franks: Bob, that's a good question and one that we have talked about amongst ourselves. It's hard to say, honestly. It needs to go faster, but at the same time, there is a lot that goes into making notifications and that can't be rushed. The last thing you want is the wrong person being notified, or something along those lines. Soldiers play a major part in this, as they are supposed to update their emergency information

Emily Franks: and if they don't update it, the military has to take more time to hunt down the folks that need to be notified.

Emily Franks: Thanks, Debbi!

Rocci Fisch: Married to the Military: http://www.goodbooksbadcoffee.com/book/9781439150269

Emily Franks: Cenema, no, I completely agree with you. That news needs to come down the correct pipeline, EVERY TIME. For me, it's only happened that once. And thankfully, it's gotten better for us with Facebook since June 7th.

Emily Franks: Deborah, Daily communication is based on many points... the soldier, the area, the job, etc. If the soldier is in an area where there are lots of phones and computers and doesn't go out on missions all the time, then communication can be pretty good. For others, if you get a call once a week, you are happy. Some areas are allowing personal cell phones. others aren't.

Emily Franks: It really depends on the soldier, and how busy they are. You just have to understand that they are in a war zone and will call or email just as soon as they can.

Emily Franks: Janette, you are just one of many parents that has made this so much better, so thank you!

Emily Franks: Kathy, it's more than just the speed. Some of it isn't the fault of the Army... if the soldiers don't update their info, then that slows everything down. But yes, changes are needed.

Chris Boutet: Test

Deborah Meader: Thank you!

Emily Franks: Thanks y'all... it's time to put my toddler down for his nap. :) Please feel free to let me know if there are questions that you have moving forward. I am always happy to help. Hope your Friday goes well! Thanks!

Seana Minikhiem Arrechaga: Great job Emily!

Emily Franks: ?:) Feel free to reach me on my facebook if there is some way I can be of assistance.

Rocci Fisch: This concludes our Facebook/Washington Post chat with Emily Franks about military wives, social networking and keeping informed about the war in Afghanistan back home. Thank you for joining in.

Sona Patel: Great chat.

Emily Franks: it was pretty good... sorry we lost all those folks though, technical difficulty

By Rocci Fisch  | November 5, 2010; 11:43 AM ET
 
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Comments

One of the many changes that has taken place since I served is the ability to communicate with loved ones back home. During my time in the Navy we felt isolated; sometimes for weeks. We only had two ways to get news from home, thru letters that were waiting for us when we reached a port or by using a ham radio. We would be out at sea for weeks at a time and if we could find a ham radio operator in the states who had a phone patch and was willing to patch our calls, we could talk for only a few minutes because everyone was in line waiting too.
My son joined the Navy and on his first deployment I realized how things had changed. He could email us any time anywhere he was.

Posted by: ATHOMAS51 | November 5, 2010 1:09 PM | Report abuse

One of the many changes that has taken place since I served is the ability to communicate with loved ones back home. During my time in the Navy we felt isolated; sometimes for weeks. We only had two ways to get news from home, thru letters that were waiting for us when we reached a port or by using a ham radio. We would be out at sea for weeks at a time and if we could find a ham radio operator in the states who had a phone patch and was willing to patch our calls, we could talk for only a few minutes because everyone was in line waiting too.
My son joined the Navy and on his first deployment I realized how things had changed. He could email us any time anywhere he was.

Posted by: ATHOMAS51 | November 5, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

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Posted by: ajdfhdfgtsdgasd | November 5, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

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