Event Will Unite Kentucky Troops in Iraq with Loved Ones at Home
Last year's 2004 "Freedom Calls from Freedom Hall"
was a big success. (Read last year's story)
Kentucky soldiers and their families will once again this year have the opportunity to visit via satellite during the UK vs. U of L basketball game, thanks to this year’s “Freedom Calls from Rupp Arena” event.
On Saturday, Dec. 17, the national CBS feed of the UK vs. U of L basketball game will be broadcast on the Armed Forces Network. In turn, the videoconference signal from Camp Fallujah, Camp Taji and Al Asad Air Base in Iraq will be transmitted into Rupp Arena’s audio-visual system.
This will allow fans watching the game to see and hear the soldiers on the big-screen TVs in Rupp Arena, and the troops in Iraq will be able to see and hear coaches, players and dignitaries express their love, support and appreciation for their sacrifices.
“While we enjoy the holiday season and this great basketball rivalry, we can’t forget that the loved ones of many Kentuckians are away fighting for freedom,” said Gov. Fletcher. “This event will allow us to honor and thank our soldiers for their service and bravery.”
“Kentucky and Louisville is a tremendous rivalry that captures the attention of everyone in the commonwealth,” said UK basketball coach Tubby Smith. “‘Freedom Calls from Rupp Arena’ allows those Kentuckians serving our nation overseas to reconnect – in some small way – to their families and friends back home. It’s an honor to be a part of this project.”
During the Dec. 17 event, more than 40 Kentucky soldiers from Camp Fallujah, Camp Taji and Al Asad Air Base in Iraq will be invited to talk with their families from Rupp Arena. From one hour before until one hour after the game, three private videoconference rooms will be available for the families and soldiers to have some personal time together.
During the pregame, commercial breaks, halftime, and after the game, the audio and video feeds from the soldiers will be piped into Rupp Arena.
“It’s wonderful that families from this great state will have the opportunity to visit with their loved ones through Freedom Calls, particularly during the holiday season,” said University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino. “In addition to the connections with their families, I hope our game can offer an enjoyable distraction for our troops overseas. It was heartwarming for all of us to be involved with this venture in Freedom Hall last year.”
Families and soldiers interested in participating in the Dec. 17 event should e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Families and soldiers will then be contacted to make arrangements to participate. Currently, Freedom Calls are only available at Camps Fallujah, Taji and Al Asad Air Base.
The idea for the original Freedom Calls event came from Rob Sprang, director of Kentucky TeleHealth Network (KTHN) at UK HealthCare. KTHN will connect to the Freedom Calls Foundation, a nonprofit foundation that raises funds to place communication centers at the front lines. KTHN also hosts “Family Freedom Festivals” throughout the year across the state, helping hundreds of soldiers spend time with their families via videoconference technology.
The Freedom Calls Foundation raises money to install equipment and network in Iraq. The program is sponsored by the generosity of KTHN, Kentucky TeleCare, St. Claire TeleCare and many others who contribute to the effort.
For more information, log on to the foundation’s Web site at www.freedomcalls.org.
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