Cell Phones Offer Lifeline To Soldiers

For a 7-year-old who's missing his daddy and a father thousands of miles away at war, a phone call is not just a chance to catch up: It's the only way to cope, CBS News correspondent Kelly Wallace reports.

"Anytime it gets a little wild out here, it brings me right back down to reality," says Sgt. Chuck Beland with the Massachusetts Army National Guard.

Sgt. Beland can call home for free as often as he wants, all because of two kids from suburban Boston — 15-year-old Robbie Bergquist and his sister Brittany, who's 16.

Their unlikely story begins three years ago when they heard news reports about a soldier with a $8,000 phone bill.

"Brittany and I jumped into action. We thought 'this isn't right,'" Robbie says.

They organized raffles and car washes to pay off the soldier's bill. Then they came up with this clever idea: Collect donations of used cell phones and recycle them for cash. They get an average of $5 for each phone and use the money to buy phone cards for the troops. That's how Cell Phones For Soldiers was born.


"Just being able to speak for five minutes is the greatest gift you can get, and we love that we're able to actually do that for people across the country," Brittany says.

Three years later, they have sent more than 1.5 million phone minutes to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Our goal is to make sure that every soldier can call home for free," Brittany says.

The program is getting a major boost. AT&T is donating nearly $300,000 worth of phone cards and will provide cell phone drop-off points at Cingular stores around the country.

"It's kind of like a breakthrough for kids to know that kids can make a difference in the world," Robbie says.

Just look at the difference one phone call can make.

"My first reaction is a sigh of relief, like oh, he's OK, he's OK, he's OK, you know," because you never want to have to tell your son something's happened to his daddy, Beth Beland says.

"I don't think they have a word in the dictionary to explain how much it means to me," Sgt. Beland says.

You get the sense these kids don't quite realize just how much they've done.



If you would like to learn more about Cell Phones For Soldiers, click here.
  • Melissa McNamara

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