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Skyping while deployed: Guardsman electronically ‘attends’ engineer ball
Skyping while deployed: Guardsman electronically ‘attends’ engineer ball

Sgt. 1st Class James McClarney

LAKE OZARK, Mo. (Feb. 7, 2013) — Although currently deployed to Afghanistan with the Missouri National Guard’s 1138th Engineer Company of Farmington and Fredericktown, one soldier was able to virtually join his wife at the 35th Engineer Brigade Engineer Ball.

Sgt. 1st Class James McClarney, a platoon sergeant with the 1138th, was able to visit with his wife, JoLynn McClarney, via the video communication software Skype during the ball, which was held at Lodge of the Four Seasons.

It is just the second time the McClarneys, who live in Imperial, have missed physically attending the ball together since 1988.

“He was part of Operation Iraqi Freedom back in 2005 and we missed that one together, too,” JoLynn said. 
JoLynn, as well as several other friends the couple have made through the years from their Guard extended family, exchanged well wishes with James at the event.

“The technology now is so wonderful just because of the fact that I had our first child when he was in Desert Storm and the only way to communicate back then was snail mail and phone calls,” JoLynn said.
Despite James not being available to go with her to the ball, JoLynn said she felt it was still important for her and other spouses to attend.

“My feeling is that the women need to come and represent their husbands, whether they are here or not,” she said. “They come when their soldier is here, to stand behind them, but then they also need to show that support when they are gone.”

JoLynn said James, for the most part, was in good spirits.

“You can tell that it bothers him that he is not here, but you can tell that he knows that he has a job to do over there also and that he needs to be there to do it,” she said.

Maj. Kelly Messerli, who is the assistant training and operations officer for the 35th Engineer Brigade, was among those to chat with James, who was one of Messerli’s section sergeants when he was commander of the 1148th Engineer Multi-Role Bridge Company.

“We wanted them to be a part of the ball, which is all about the engineers and us being together as a Family,” Messerli said. “Even though they are in Afghanistan, they are still part of it. Sgt. 1st Class McClarney said he hoped we were all having a good time.”

Among the more than 300 of the state's citizen-soldier engineers and their families to attend were four other spouses from the 1138th.

The ball, in its 34th year, is a gathering open to all Missouri Guard engineers and occurs almost annually and is presented by the brigade, which is headquartered at Fort Leonard Wood.

During the ball, the audience saw a short film and slideshow about the recent activities of the 1138th, which is the only Missouri Guard engineer unit that is currently deployed.

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