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KILLEEN At any other time in history, word of another active day for Army wife Carrie Jenkins would be written on paper and mailed off to her husband far away.

"None of the guys over there are worried about themselves," she said. "They're all worried about their families back home."

Twelve years ago, when the war in Afghanistan began, there was no Facebook, Twitter or Skype.

Since then, technology has changed the way we live. It's changed the way military families live, too. Now, it's normal for soldiers to see and talk to their families an hour a day.

Carrie and Dillon Jenkins are high school sweethearts from Sanger. They live in Killeen now, near Fort Hood, while Dillon serves as an Army doctor in Afghanistan. For all the distance and the danger, Dillon is largely plugged in the day-to-day of home life.

"Did you water the garden?," Dillon asked Carrie during a Skype video call.

"Yes, and I watered the yard. Impressed? Since you said everything is brown there, I'm going to try to make it green, she told him.

The interaction gives Carrie comfort.

"I know he's safe. He's in a safe area. And our guys have it under control over there, but just to see him gives me a little relief, she said.

"You feel real plugged-in. You know what's going on at school and at work, with church... things like that, Dillon said.

Since 9/11, military divorce rates have been on the rise. There's no research showing whether digital, face-to-face communication makes things better, but according to experts, common sense says it's healthy for families to keep rich connections even while they're apart.

"I think probably having Skype lessens the impact of the deployment, said Tom Wilhite, a clinical psychologist with the Veterans Administration.

During a long separation, most families change, he said. Children are born or have grown. Spouses get more independent. The service member has a life-changing experience.

But Wilhite says daily contact helps keep things normal.

"Communication can be almost as normal as if they're down the street or around the corner, and I think that's led to a much different experience for the soldiers, he said.

For proof, Dillon's been watching his children grow. His youngest son was born right before deployment.

"I've actually got to watch him grow, actually learn how to do things like walking and saying 'DaDa,'" Jenkins said.

In the history of war, that's a first.

E-mail dschechter@wfaa.com

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