— Army Spc. Dwayne Roane's four children know their Christmas Day mission: reach Dad.
From a university apartment in Atlanta, a bedroom in Augusta, Ga., and a family room in DuPont, Wash., the Roanes will scramble to their computers to contact the 38-year-old soldier stationed in Iraq.
"Even before daybreak and gifts, we have to make sure he's OK," said Roane's 14-year-old son, Deandre, in Washington. "After we Skype him, hear his voice, we can move on with the day."
When msnbc.com offered readers a chance to send a holiday salute to U.S. troops, the Roanes were among the first to post a photo of their uniformed father and his youngest daughter, Deshaun, 5. The caption read: "Last kiss before leaving."
Submissions poured in from around the nation and across the Atlantic.
Well-wishers posted pictures of pets, American flags and a virtual tray of holiday cookies and chili.
Some messages were tender and filled with gratitude. Others expressed pride, loss and love, and some were lighthearted.
"Hey Cuz," wrote Tughril Muhammad, from Chicago. "Hope all is well. I'm not going to write on and on. But, I do hope your taking care of business where you are. If you need anything minor thing like candy and magazines, just hit me. If you need money, which I doubt, call your wife. LOL."
The Roanes look forward to sharing the holiday with Dad, even if it's through a computer.
"I am going to tell my daddy that I miss him," Deshaun said. "I am going to tell I am doing real good in school and come home."
Deshaun's older siblings are just as emotional.
"I couldn't even bring myself to see him off," said Aciandrea, 18. "I'm daddy's girl and will always be daddy's girl."
"This year has been more surreal," said Roane's eldest son, Branden, 21. "Everything seems to be affecting me more. I know more and more of what is happening overseas. All I can say is be close to the ones you love and don't take anything for granted."
A sampling of other posts:
My Christmas wish is that our troops fair well and very importantly, that every American stops for a moment on Christmas day to think of a young trooper sleeping in a foxhole or standing a sentry post somewhere in the world. I wish that every American takes this moment to thank these troops for keeping us safe. — Steve Little, Cliff Island, Maine.
I served with the US Army between 1968 and 1970. To all who serve voluntarily today in all branches of our military, know this. The extraordinary commitment and courage that you all demonstrate allows all of us veterans to finally admit that we served proudly in Vietnam. Thank you all for what you are doing to keep our country secure. Be safe and have a very Merry Christmas! We'll keep a light on for you ... Anonymous
Will, we are so proud you, and while it's not always easy or pleasant, we understand that this is our life, and separation is a part of it. Our boys and I want to wish you a Merry Christmas (or as good as it can be in Afghanistan) and you already know that you are always in our hearts, thoughts, and prayers. Our Christmas won't be the same without you here with us, but know that even though we are not physically together, we are all with you in spirit. — Kristin, Matthew, Christopher, and William Easter of Camp Lejeune, N.C.
I want to wish my son, James S. Powell II, at Schofield Barracks Hawaii and all the soldiers and military a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Be safe and stay in touch. I am so proud of each and every one of you and want you all to return home soon. I love you. Be safe. I miss you so much, OXOX. Mom. — Linda LeWand, North Fort Myers, Fla.
Peace on Earth to my friend, Maj. Andy Christian, U.S. Marine Corps, commanding officer task force 811, currently serving his third tour of duty abroad and now stationed in Farah province in Afghanistan. Andy is a true hero to many friends and his loving family — he is strong, brave and true to the American ideal of freedom for all and fighting for peace in the world. While on leave, Andy has raised over $100,000 to date for the Injured Marine Semper FI Fund, a non profit organization that helps America's true heroes recovering from catastrophic injury. — Ariadne Delon Scott, Menlo Park, Calif.
I do not personally know any U.S. troop member, but that will not stop me from offering my sincere thanks and gratitude for the job they do each day. I currently live in Paris, France. I feel a certain tug of the heart when I see images or newscasts of U.S. troops shown here. It is a mix of pride that I feel, but also a sense of anxiety as I cannot imagine what the difficulties and challenges are that they face each moment. I hope you can find at least a moment of tranquility and know that there are plenty of us who wish you well. — Maureen Fergus, Paris, France.
"My message to all of you serving soldiers is that you know you are remembered and thought of daily. At 75 years, I remember and sorrow over the horror of wars since Korea where my husband, brothers, and friends served. Some never came home. It is to be hoped that one day soon you will be serving as peace-time soldiers. My prayers are ongoing for your safe return home with a swift end to the war." — Gloria Loughlin, Reading, Mass.