FORREST COUNTY (WDAM) - A student at Dixie Attendance Center was surprised by a FaceTime call from his army dad, who is currently serving in Afghanistan, during the school's Veterans Day celebration Friday.
"I was like 'Wow he's here?!'" said 10-year-old Keith Collins. "I thought he flew down, but then I saw the screen and I'm like 'oh, he's on the screen.' So I was shocked that he was here because I thought he was busy and wasn't able to FaceTime."
Julie Collins, Keith's mom and Capt. Sidney Collins' wife, said FaceTime is a regular routine.
"We FaceTime pretty frequently," she said. "I've started taking my lunch to work, so I can eat my lunch at my desk and FaceTime with him then because by then, he's finished with his day. He's had dinner, and he's back in his room."
Even with sometimes spotty service, Julie and Keith said being able to see Sidney makes this deployment easier.
"Sometimes FaceTime works, and sometimes it doesn't," Julie said. "Like we saw today, (it's) in and out, but it's so much easier this deployment to have access to the FaceTime. We've been in deployments where he had to share a payphone with 200 other soldiers, so I never knew when I would get to talk to him. So this has been much easier."
Keith said, "It helps me feel like he's still with us."
Keith keeps his dad close in other ways, too, like wearing Sidney's uniform to dress as his dad for the school's 'Hero Day.'
Keith Collins dresses as dad, Capt. Sidney Collins, for Hero Day at his school. Source: Dixie Attendance Center.
"I've always dreamed ever since I was little kid to be in the army, so that was just my hero," Keith said. "I've always just wanted to serve the country."
Julie said that choice meant a lot to Sidney.
"He was honored," she said. "Sid and Keith are very close. We mentioned FaceTime, but the children aren't able to FaceTime with him during the week because of school schedules. By the time they get home, he's in bed, so we've been FaceTiming, family FaceTime, on Saturdays and Sundays. So that's been good, but they miss the every day things. I try to keep him in the loop, but it's easier when he's here."
Being able to see Sidney on Nov. 11 is special for the Collins' for reasons beyond Veterans Day.
"It's a special day anyway, Veterans Day, but it's also his (Sid's) birthday," Julie said. "Sid was named for an uncle who was killed in the Battle of Tarawa, so it just seems fitting that Veterans Day would be the same day as his birthday."
Julie said she isn't sure when Sidney is officially coming home.
"We have an idea, but we're not certain yet," Julie said. "So we'll just see him when he gets here."