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Fort Lewis troops get a link to home

A nonprofit organization has made this Christmas a merrier one for families of deployed Fort Lewis soldiers.

Operation Homelink of Chicago presented more than 100 new netbook computers donated by computer manufacturer Dell to the families.

The computers were distributed at the Army post last week. It was the first time the organization had visited Fort Lewis and the first time it presented computers with webcams.

Dan Shannon, the organization’s founder, said the families have paid for the computers by virtue of their loved ones deploying to serve their country and the families holding down the fort back home.

“They’re just a small token of our appreciation,” Shannon said of the computers.

He said the event was one of the most emotional the organization has attended, in part because it occurred right before the holidays.

The Army post has more than 10,000 soldiers deployed overseas, including all three of its Stryker combat brigades.

Technology has allowed families to connect with their deployed loved ones now more than ever. Representatives of Operation Homelink, founded in 2003, note that can be a different story for the families of junior enlisted soldiers. They often can’t afford computers and must rely on the expensive phones or mailed letters to stay in touch.

The organization is working to change that by distributing laptop and netbook computers donated by large companies to these families. Officials estimate that the company has linked 3,200 families to their loved ones overseas.

“Having this computer is a huge blessing,” Patricia Owens-Hailey said in a news release. Her husband, Tycho, is a specialist deployed to Afghanistan with the 402nd Brigade Support Battalion, 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. “You take communications for granted until you don’t have it. You just have to wait. Helping our family in this way is just huge.”

Corporations nationwide are encouraged to participate by donating end-of-life laptop computers. To learn more, go to www.operationhomelink.org. The Web page has information about how residents can donate money to the cause.

Christian Hill: 360-754-5427

chill@theolympian.com

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