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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Purposefulness (Purpose in Life) (05/25/06)

TITLE: Of Dots and Dashes
By Shari Armstrong


I grumbled as I watched the picture on the TV screen go fuzzy in short and long bursts of interference.

“Time for bed. Go tell Dad goodnight.”

My sister and I got off the couch, and opened the door to the radio shack. Dad held up one hand as he wrote with the other. When he was done writing, he moved his headphones back, “Good night, girls. Love you.”

“Love you, too. G’night, Dad.”

He gave us each a kiss and went back to the dots and dashes in his headphones.

We went upstairs and waited for Mom to read our story and say our prayers. “I wish he wasn’t on that stupid radio almost every night.”

”I know. But he’s the state training officer, so you know he needs to be there.

“Yeah, I know.” I rolled over and closed my eyes, trying not to cry.

* * *

The phone rang. “I’ll get it, Mom.” I lifted the receiver, “Hello?”

”Hello. Is your father there?”

”No, but I can take a message.” I stretched the cord to grab paper and pencil off the desk. “Ready.”

”Ok, my name is Sarah Smith and I wanted to get a message to my husband. He’s in Germany.”

She gave me his name, rank and where he was stationed. “Ok, what’s the message?”

”Our son, James Daniel, was born yesterday, and he’s healthy and can’t wait to see his daddy.”

“Got it. I’ll make sure he gets it tonight.”

”Thanks. We really appreciate it.”

”You’re welcome. Bye.” I hung up and put the paper on Dad’s notebook in the shack.

* * *

“Dad, Ann’s here.” My friend and I squeezed in behind Dad’s chair.

“Hi, Ann. We’ll be ready in a minute.” He keyed his microphone, “This is WA8WHP. We have someone here who would like to speak to her grandparents. Over.”

The voice on the other end replied with his call sign and said, “Here they are. Over.”

Dad handed the microphone to Ann, “Hi, Grandpa! How is it in Peru?”

They spoke of their mission trip. She told them all about school and their family. When Ann was done, she handed the microphone back to Dad. “Thanks.”

”No problem.” He keyed the mike again, “This is WA8WHP, out.” The man at the other end signed off as well. “I’m just glad you found out there was a ham living near where your grandparents are working.”

I smiled as we went back outside to play.

*Author’s note: The MARS program (Military Affiliate Radio System) is made up of amateur radio operators (aka “Hams”) who train in Morse code and voice communications on regularly scheduled nets. There are three groups within the MARS system: Army, Air Force, and Navy-Marine Corps. They provide communications during natural disasters and other emergency situations. They also provide a free message service for military personnel and their families around the world.

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This article has been read 1133 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Kate Wells06/01/06
Very sweet story. I could really identify. My dad was a "ham", too. Great job. Kate~
Edy T Johnson 06/01/06
God bless the MARS people! I'm thrilled to know they are still in operation. I recall the sound of my twin brothers' voices over a MARS connection during my tour of duty in Vietnam. They were 14 at the time, and I got to hear (voice-changing age) what I would have missed without MARS! This story goes in my "favorites." Thank you for writing!
Amy Michelle Wiley 06/02/06
Wow, I didn't know that. Thanks for the info in a memorable and entertaining way. :-)
david grant06/02/06
good to know MARS is still up and running like it was when I was in the military.
And the "code" is still strong as well!

dit dah dah dit-dah-dit dah dit dit !!! (PTL!)
Brenda Craig06/04/06
Shows how things once bothering us changes perspective when it becomes personal; meeting our own needs. We go from a cry to smile. We may need the very thing we have problems with, especially the purpose of someone else. Good job Shari!
Maxx .06/04/06
Good job, Shari. This was nice and crisp. A good example of understanding the importance of even the annoying things of life. My only suggestion would be to amplify the crisis a bit and then really bring the resolution home. Right now the crisis is "I cried" and the resolution is seeing the good that is done. For a better story (although not factually correct in real life) you could have the daughter and father get in an arguement (building up the crisis) and the resolution could be a nail biting, life saving transmission. But I really liked the flow of this one and it really felt good to read. Good work!
Jan Ackerson 06/04/06
See, this is what I love about FW--I learn so much! I had no idea that this program existed. I really like the way you captured your narrator's changing moods, and the dad's very moving purpose. Well done!
T. F. Chezum06/04/06
Good job. I enjoyed the story. Thanks for the author's note, it was interesting.
George Parler 06/04/06
A very unique backdrop. And what a great way to acknowledge the dedication of many operators around the world. And then to personalize it between father and daughter. Very nice read Shari.
Dara Sorensen06/05/06
Interesting; I never really knew the details about ham radios. Cute story. :-)
Joanne Malley06/05/06
Nicely written. Thanks for the lesson you're sweet story provided. Good job.:) Jo
Sue Dent06/05/06
You know the ham operators play such an important role in all these natural disasters like Katrina too. Good job "showing" how their job is special and needed!
Rita Garcia06/06/06
My uncle was also a "Ham" Fantastic story!
Dr. Sharon Schuetz06/06/06
This is a good story. I liked the info on the radio opperation. I didn't know this. Thanks.