JACKSONVILLE, N.C. -- Finding solace in a deployed environment can come in many ways. For deployed service members, one thing’s for sure: nothing beats seeing the one thing keeping the wheels turning – family.
After a long day on patrol, time permitting, service members can simply get online and connect with family members back home – if, in fact, families stateside have computers. Fact is, some don’t, leaving some families relying on technology of the past, such as calling cards or regular mail, to communicate with their loved ones.
Enter Operation Homelink. The non-profit organization distributed 100 refurbished laptops and webcams to families of the II Marine Expeditionary Force Oct. 14 at the USO of North Carolina-Jacksonville to give both families and their deployed service member better means to stay connected.
“I sincerely appreciate the efforts of Operation Homelink, the USO and their volunteers and staff for their generous webcam and laptop computer donations to our II MEF families,” said Maj. Gen. Raymond C. Fox, the II MEF commanding general. “Family readiness is a critical component to combat readiness and this great program directly supports that.”
Dan Shannon, president and founder of Operation Homelink, began the organization 10 years ago after looking at images of Illinois National Guard troops saying goodbye to their families before a deployment and an organization in San Diego giving laptops to families in the local area.
“I’ve never served myself. I’m a family man, a father of four, and I can only imagine what it would be like to be in those boots,” said Shannon. “I wanted to do something to give back for all the sacrifices made by all those who are sacrificing on my behalf.”
Operation Homelink is a self-funded, all volunteer organization. The organization receives software and computers from major companies such as, Raytheon, Dell, Fluor, Southwest Airlines and Microsoft. These companies have provided more than 7,000 computers to military families, wounded warriors and unemployed veterans.
“Some of the more powerful sentiments that have been expressed is when someone tells us that, through this program, it shows that the service members and their families have not been forgotten and that there are people out there still willing to support them,” said Shannon.
Shannon spoke to the families who gathered at the USO and he played Mark Schultz’s “Letters from War” music video. The song shows the importance of communication between loved ones and their service members overseas, giving meaning behind the importance of staying in touch.
“You won’t find the word ‘free’ anywhere on our website. These (computers and webcams) were not free,” said Shannon. “(Service members earned them) when they signed the paperwork. Every morning, they strap on their boots to do the heavy lifting for the 99 percent of us who don’t serve. These were earned and paid for by all the families back home. They’re not free, but they’re a small token of appreciation for all the sacrifices that the military families and service members are making for the rest of us,” said Shannon.