So much has changed from my deployment to Desert Shield/Storm. I was given 15 minute of morale call time a day. Try pinning your loved ones down to a set time 12 hours later in the day then you without email or any other means to pre-coordinate this meeting. You would have to sign up on a list and hope you could get a time that you knew someone would probably be home. Then the phone lines were crappy and sometime they would drop your call.
Compare that to today… I can contact my wife any hour of the day with multiple means of communication. I know that she wishes it wasn’t that easy sometimes. There are many ways to stay in contact with your family back home. Here are a few that I use when I am deployed. One of my favorite is using Skype (www.skype.com) to video chat and call family and friends. What makes this such a great tool is that you can also buy a phone number and a calling plan for about $25 every 3 months. This makes it easy to stay in contact with the not so tech savvy like grandmas and others that do not use the internet so much. I am able make and receive calls from anywhere and to anywhere in the US. There are other similar options like Magic Jack and Google Voice.
There is also a way to send texts to your family members using your email if you are in the office and want to get a message out to them. I recommend doing this from a personal account rather than a company/government account only because the firewalls on the these networks may stop this kind of traffic from coming back in if you are waiting for a response. You have to know what company the other person is using before it will work. Below are some vendors and their info for sending a text from your email account.
where phonenumber = your 10 digit phone number
US Cellular: firstname.lastname@example.org
AT&T MMS: phonenumber@MMS.att.net
Metro PCS: phonenumber@MyMetroPcs.com
Virgin Mobile: email@example.com
You can also use your office phone to call toll free numbers for using calling cards. This is useful if the internet is not available.
There is also email and good old fashioned letters in the post office as well. I thought it would be neat to send my Grandma a letter from here rather than call all the time. I think she really appreciated it. My 6 year old was actually able to read my entire letter to him, so that was pretty cool as well. For deployed personnel, we can mail letters for free. The days of the romantic letter from the front are nearly a thing of the past.
I am sure their are lots of other ways to keep in touch, these are just few that I use.