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Deployed dad stays in kids' daily lives

By Sasha Horne, HLN
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Create your own 'Salute to Troops'
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Army Lt. Col. Noah Strong uses the internet from Kuwait to chat with family
  • They Skype every day, he manages finances and he and his son play chess
  • His family recorded a special message to him that will be on HLN
  • HLN's Robin Meade salutes the troops every weekday on "Morning Express"
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(CNN) -- Noelle Strong, like most 17-year-olds, is looking forward to graduation day. The day is special to her not only because it's the culmination of her high school career, but also because it's when her father, Army Lt. Col. Noah Strong, returns from his deployment to Kuwait.

"It's kind of hard for me with him being there during my senior year because he's missing things like me applying for colleges, but I talk to him almost every night over the internet so that really helps a lot," she said.

Noelle, along with her mother, Wilma, and her younger brother, Evan, visited the HLN newsroom recently to learn about a new way they can keep in touch with her dad and show appreciation for the sacrifice he is making for the family.

HLN's Robin Meade met the family to show them how to create a personalized message to Noah Strong.

Meade salutes the troops every weekday on her show, "Morning Express with Robin Meade." The salutes come from pictures and videos viewers send to CNN iReport.

While viewers can continue to submit iReports for the on-air version, the new website allows families like the Strongs to easily create and send a salute on their own.

Wilma Strong described her husband's 28 years of service as admirable and said the family relies heavily on technology to keep the household running smoothly.

"This deployment is unlike his previous deployments because of the new technologies like Skype," she said.

Now, Wilma Strong said, when 12-year-old Evan wants to play a new song he learned on his trumpet or play chess with his father, it's simply an internet call away.

The Strong family realizes that duty calls, and that the Army is the priority, and Wilma Strong said she is thankful and impressed by the way her husband finds time to balance his life in Kuwait as well as family life.

"Even though he's not physically here, he is active in our daily lives. From getting together online to manage household expenses to helping out with parenting, he does it all without complaining and for that I'm so grateful," said Wilma Strong.

At Camp Arifjan Kuwait, Noah Strong works as the chief of Current Operations. He said technology helps make the deployment go by much more quickly.

"It's a great help, because you are in touch with what's going on at home. Sometimes it can be frustrating being this far away, hearing what's going on but not really being there for it. But just the contact alone makes the lonely go away a lot."

So while the family prepares for a holiday season without him, Strong turns to his computer to help bring pieces of home to him.

"I have a couple of really great kids," he said, smiling. "And what I miss most about seeing them are the smiles, and being able to see their reactions to things, talk to them, watch what happens when they experience a lot of things means the world to a parent. To be deployed and not have that can kind of add to the frustrations a little bit, but when the opportunities come, no matter what venue it is, you have to kind of take advantage of it."

Back home, the family is already looking forward to the things they'll do when he returns.

"We're going to hike up Kennesaw Mountain and just do all the father/son things we can," Evan said.

"I'm just excited for graduation and him being there to see me walk across the stage," Noelle said.

Wilma Strong doesn't have any particular plans. "I'll just be happy to have him here, we've missed him at lot."

For the Strong family, spring can't get here soon enough. Creating a salute is a special way to thank their soldier for his service.

If you would like to create a salute of your own, visit CNN.com/Robin to learn how.

Watch Morning Express with Robin Meade weekdays at 6am ET on HLN. For the latest from Morning Express click here.