Teams Begin Taping Holiday Greetings Overseas

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The greetings will be aired on commercial TV and radio stations in the United States and its territories throughout the holiday season.

The Holiday Greetings Program is one of the most recognizable in America and always begins months before halls are decked and wreaths hung.

This year marks the 26th anniversary of the program.

Servicemembers from all branches of service, their family members and Defense Department civilians are eligible to participate, said Erich Schwab, who is coordinating the program this year.

The teams will travel to the Pacific, Europe and Southwest Asia to collect greetings from more than 60 locations. Partner military broadcast organizations will collect greetings in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The News Service is offering a few pointers and guidelines for those wishing to participate:

-- Bring address books as family members' names, city, state and phone number are needed. No street address is needed this year, but station managers need a phone number to let families know when the greeting will air.

-- Servicemembers need to be in uniform, though a work uniform is fine. Family members should accompany their sponsor, unless their sponsor is deployed -- and don't forget the props. Santa hats, pets, banners and Christmas attire are encouraged.

-- Certain locations may have a wait and lunch time and after work normally are prime times. Try to break away for a few minutes during mid-morning or mid-afternoon and avoid the rush.

-- There aren't a lot of rules while on camera, but there are some tips to make the experience go smoothly. The top three are: relax, relax and relax.

-- Try to be cheerful and in the holiday spirit. It doesn't show well on camera if a servicemember's teenage daughter looks like she'd rather be at the mall than wishing Grandma happy holidays.

-- Try to keep hand gestures to a minimum and when giving a greeting, don't say "Happy Thanksgiving." Most greetings will begin to air on Thanksgiving Day and will quickly become obsolete.

-- Try writing down main points on a 3-by-5 card. People will have 15 to 20 seconds per greeting, more than enough time to get in holiday wishes, but sometimes nerves can cause a bout of forgetfulness. Jotting down family members' names and a few key points can be helpful.

-- People who have family in more than one area can do several greetings.

When the teams return to San Antonio in late October, production will run 24/7, Schwab said. 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.

Stations usually begin running greetings on Thanksgiving and continue through New Year's Day. Many greetings air multiple times during the holidays and usually on more than one station, Schwab said.

Joint Hometown News Service