Updated 18-Sep: Welcome to the Schriefer Blog, my name is Tavis Schriefer. Recently, my wife Jill and I raised money to supply driFIRE shirts to every soldier in Apache Company of the 1-501st Parachute Infantry Regiment. We were successful in raising over $6500 and we would like to thank everyone for all their support to make this happen.
Please read our entire message here...

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Research info for other families

The time has come for change. The Schriefer family no longer has boys at war and it is about time to create a new blog for our closest family and firends. This blog will remain online for now at www.501stSoldierFund.com, but will not be updated after 31-Dec-2007. I wish the best to the rest of the soldiers and their families as their challenges continue on. While we don’t always agree with the situations that put our country at war, my wife and I take great pride in our soldiers who are willing to defend those decisions.

Thanks to all for the kind words during this time and all the donations during our driFire shirt effort.

I hope that some of the information on my blog was useful to others. Here are a few links that I have found useful to gain information.

  • My blog choice: www.blogger.com. Owned by Google, which also owns YouTube and Picasa, making it very easy to integrate photos and video – all free.

  • Google Alerts (http://www.google.com/alerts/) allow you to setup search criteria and it will generate automatic emails to you with the search results. As an example, I have a search setup for Jurf As Sakhr as a “once a day” “Comprehensive” search. But I found that some news agencies also spell it as Jurf Kas Sukr, so I also setup a search for that spelling.

  • Digital Video and Imagery Distribution System (http://www.dvidshub.net) is the website that the military uses to publish their video, photo and other news stories out to the agencies. It is a great source for video and you can become a member just by signing up. You can watch or download hi-res images / videos and you can search for specific phrases that pertain to your nephew’s location, unit, etc. You can even create a bookmark in Internet Explorer of the search results so that you can quickly check back for new videos.

  • The Pentagon Channel (http://www.pentagonchannel.mil) has a lot of military news to watch online and they also have podcasts freely available on iTunes for download

  • Iraq Coalition Casualty (http://www.icasualties.org/oif/) is not an uplifting website, however it is a good source to locate specific information regarding a soldier, unit, etc. I have used it to look at how many soldiers in my son’s unit were killed and the official military press release to match it. While it sounds bad, it also helped set my mind at ease many times. I would hear about a casualty on the news in the area that my son was in, but didn’t actually know if it had to do with my son’s unit. It takes several days for the military to publish the name (all family must be notified first), but this website can sometimes help to determine the true location or unit that was affected.

  • Other useful websites: http://www.blackanthem.com/, http://www.blackanthem.com/, http://warnewstoday.blogspot.com/

Here are the most valuable communication tools I’ve found during this time:

  • A good laptop and webcam for your soldier, with a good headset and mike (Logitech’s 980445-0403)

  • A durable camera (Olympus Stylus 770 SW). While this camera is expensive, my son destroyed two others before it – so would have been cheaper in the long run. Sand gets in everything in Iraq, these cameras can be rinsed off with water and can survive a lot of abuse.

  • Yahoo Messenger works great even with slow internet connections in Iraq. Also, for us family members, you can setup Yahoo IM to work on your cell phone so no matter where you are, you can be online for your soldier. Video quality via webcam is pretty good most of the time too. It really helps to be able to see your soldier live while IMing with him.

  • Skype Messenger works great to allow your soldier to call you at your home, cell or anywhere else, plus can IM or call you on your computer. I set my son up with SkypeIn ($60/yr) and SkypeOut Unlimited ($30/yr) services. SkypeIn service provided him a local phone number that friends and family could call him and leave voicemail messages. If he is online at the time, they can actually reach him by phone – all for no per minute costs. SkypeOut Unlimited allows him to call anyone in USA for no per minute charges – I think he can also do conference calls.
    o http://www.skype.com/products/skypein/
    o http://www.skype.com/products/skypeout/

  • AAFES AT&T Calling Card – This is the cheapest reliable calling card I found, but still about $0.25 per minute from Iraq to USA. I would check my son’s balance on a weekly basis and recharge if necessary, so he wouldn’t have to worry about it. Since they only have limited time for phones and many times stand in line for an hour to make a call, I always wanted to make sure he had enough minutes to handle it.

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