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Can't beat pen to paper

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- When you deploy to the desert or get a remote assignment like Osan, there are some things you start getting in order. Besides training gear, immunizations, wills and financial affairs, one of the things you think about is how you are going to keep in touch with family and handle the separation. 

Technology helps a lot of us handle this separation. Technology has come a long way. Actually, the technology has been there for a while, it's just now most of us can afford it. webcams, videophones, instant messaging, streaming video and global triband cellphones have steadily shrunk the globe down to a point where I am waiting for my internet service provider to offer high-definition holograms. This rapid onset of technology is awesome and definitely brings you much closer to loved ones, so much that I wonder how Airmen survived separation back in the 70's and 80's. 

Just like at work, we rely on these same systems to make our lives easier, as we should because they are excellent tools for convenience and efficiency. That is where I draw a distinct line between work and my family. I do not want to be "efficient" or "convenient" with my spouse. 

Technology is an important part of keeping in touch with friends and family, but nothing will ever take the place of a good old-fashioned, hand-written letter. We as a society have embraced e-mail, instant messaging and chat rooms with such vigor that I bet if you grabbed a pen and paper, your hand will cramp before you hit the third line. With longer hours and frequent exercises, it is sometimes difficult to fit in the time to sit down and write, but making that commitment to handwriting cards and letters to your family is worth the effort. 

Handwriting a letter is better in a couple of ways. First, you think before you put pen to paper. That will make it more personal. Sometimes you write more intimately when you can step away from cyberspace and the hectic pace of an Osan day and let those emotions flow from the inkwell. Most of us spend ample time sitting in front of a computer, so it is good to get away from one when you write. Some letters are written with the only boundary being our typing skills. I've heard the rapid-fire clacking of a computer keyboard that was so fast, I actually got up and checked out the screen to see if my colleague was actually typing words. 

Handwriting is also more personal because your handwriting style is unique and all your own. It is a part of you and only a spouse or family member knows all of your idiosyncrasies like a fat exclamation point or the crazy way you dot an "i" or cross a "t." The average computer user sifts through a deluge of e-mails, and your correspondence could get blended into the landscape called the inbox. 

Would you rather get the original of your child's first finger painting so you can see the detailed fingerprints or where they broke the crayon while writing "Mom" or "Dad" on it because they were so excited to send it to you, or would you like a scanned copy e-mailed because it had 1600 by 1200 resolution with 16 million color pixels? 

If that doesn't convince you to take the time and get over e-mail withdrawals, just think how you feel when you anxiously open that mailbox and you see a card or letter from your loved ones. The same reaction takes place on the other side of the ocean. Every time I stop in the post office, I see that person grinning ear to ear and giving that resounding, "Yes!" If I was a betting man, I'd venture to say that wasn't a credit card bill. 

Separation can be one of the toughest aspects of an Osan tour, but taking the time to sit down and put your thoughts and feelings on paper will show your loved ones you are thinking about them, bring out your personality, strengthen your relationship and in the end, make your separation a little easier and your tour here at Osan more enjoyable.