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Amateur Radio Operator Connects Sailors To Loved Ones

WESH.com - Winter Park, FL
May 17, 2006

Citrus, Fla. -- During hurricanes and other emergency situations, amateur radio operators are a tremendous help.

But there is another use one ham radio operator has come up with -- connecting troops on ships overseas with their homes back in the states.

And that makes Ernie O'Berry this week's WESH 2 Hometown Hero.

Sitting in his favorite chair, in what used to be the garage of his modest home in the woods in the town of Citrus, O'Berry can reach out and touch the world.

Amateur radio is more than a hobby; it's an obligation for this man, who believes in service to his country.

"You've got to do something with your time," O'Berry said. "Everybody has got to be doing something, and I want to be where I can help others, especially with as much enjoyment as I get out of this."

O'Berry searches the oceans for ships, both military and private, and uses special software to connect the crew members with their loved ones all across the U.S.

"I feel when that sailor gets through talking he's kind of lifted up on cloud nine, and he's got another kick in the rear to keep him going," he said. "Some of the calls will bring tears to your eyes."

O'Berry said the money he's spent on his radio equipment is worth it, especially when there's good news to spread.

And now he's sharing his own news over the radio.

"I was nominated for a Jefferson Award for my work on the phone patch! Someone appreciates us," he told a fellow radio operator.

Not only was O'Berry nominated, he's one of this year's Jefferson Award finalists.