KMC can send greetings home

Story and photos by Christine June
USAG Kaiserslautern

People may not stop them on the street for their autographs, but Staff Sgt. Jonathan Vinson, his wife Emma and their 7-year-old son Issac have been on TV many times thanks to the Hometown News Holiday Greetings Program.

“I love the hometown holiday greetings because you really do get on TV, and your family does see you – many times,” said Mrs. Vinson, who participated in the program with her family every year during the four years her husband was assigned to U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern’s Chaplain’s Office.

The Joint Hometown News Service from San Antonio will again have a camera team in the KMC beginning Thursday to record holiday greetings for broadcast on local stateside TV and radio stations in all 50 states and U.S. territories.

Active duty, government civilians and contractors, retirees, Department of Defense Dependents Schools teachers and staff, and their family members stationed in the areas who will be in Germany during the holidays are eligible to send holiday greetings back home.

Holiday greetings must be sent to relatives. By the hometown news definition, a relative is by law and by blood. Fiances are not considered relatives.

Last year, the news team recorded 2,254 greetings in Europe, 416 of which were recorded in the KMC, said Erich Schwab, JHNS chief of radio production.

“A couple of million people a day see these greetings,” said Mr. Schwab, who will be this year’s European team chief. “If you record a greeting, the chances are it’s going to air.”

Mr. Schwab added that news teams will shoot about 10,000 greetings this year, and more than 95 percent of those will get on the air. Family members getting to see their loved ones living overseas on their TV sets is what the Holiday Greetings Program is all about, said Kris Grogan, who was last year’s European team chief.

“I don’t know how many phone calls I get from crying parents saying ‘thank you because I haven’t been able to see my son or daughter in the past year or two years,’” he said. “It means a lot to them.”

What To Wear

Active-duty members must be in uniform and civilians should be in appropriate attire.

“If you’re in Germany sending a holiday greeting back home, I wouldn’t be in shorts and tank tops because you want it to look like it’s almost fall here,” Mr. Grogan said. “But if you want to wear something that screams your location or you are from Green Bay and want to wear your cheese hat, go for it.”

Both Mr. Schwab and Mr. Grogan said props are more than welcome. Santa’s hats, a favorite college or professional team sweater, Christmas attire, banners and even pets are welcome.

What To Bring

Bringing an address book along is a safe bet, but Mr. Schwab said all they need is to know who you are and the area code of where your greeting is going.

A telephone number will also help the TV and radio stations stateside contact family members to let them know their greeting is going to be on the air.

What To Say

Participants need to say five things within the greeting: who they are, where they are, who the greeting is going to, where they are and some sort of holiday message. There is no maximum or minimum time length on greetings. The best greetings are about 10 to 15 seconds long, Mr. Schwab said.

Family members must be accompanied by their sponsors, unless he or she is deployed. A civilian family member, a husband or wife, can make a greeting if the military family member is deployed, TDY or in the hospital, but they have to mention the deployment of the active-duty member.

Family members can also make a greeting to their military relative while on deployment, provided they are going to be there during the holidays.

When Does It Air?

Television and radio stations will normally begin running greetings on Thanksgiving Day and continue through New Year’s Day.

“Don’t say ‘Happy Thanksgiving’ in the greetings because it dates it right away, especially when it airs on Christmas Eve,” Mr. Schwab said. “But feel free to say ‘Merry Christmas,’ ‘Happy Hanukkah,’ ‘Happy New Year’ or wish families members a happy birthday if it falls during the holiday season.”

The Process

Depending upon where you’re stationed, there is a good chance there will be waiting lines. Lunch time and after work are normally prime times, so if you can break away for a few minutes during mid morning or mid afternoon, you can avoid the wait.

When customers come to do the tapings, they will fill out a form for every greeting they plan to do. A member of the hometown news crew verifies the information on the forms and gives them a small briefing.

When it’s time, one of the crew members will escort participants to the camera, give them another quick brief, place microphones on them and start recording the greeting.

When the teams return to San Antonio in late October, Mr. Schwab said production will run 24-hours-a-day, seven days a week. Video and audio greetings are separated by state, and in some of the more populated states such as California, Texas, Florida and New York, stations will receive the tapes or DVDs based upon region.

Mr. Schwab said many greetings will air multiple times during the holidays and usually on more than one station.

Mr. Schwab said recorded holiday greetings can be downloaded after Thanksgiving Day at

For more information, call the public affairs offices at 486-8144 for the LRMC location, 484-8104 for the Kleber and Panzer locations, 493-4072 for the ROB and Vogelweh locations and 480-2458 for the Ramstein location.

You can view the teams’ schedule online at 2009 calendar v2.pdf. You also can follow the teams on Twitter @hometownnews1.

(This article was compiled with information from Rich Lamance at the Joint Hometown News Service in San Antonio.)