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America Supports You: Group Links Guard Families With Loved Ones

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 12, 2007 – The nonprofit group “Operation Homelink” provided 100 Massachusetts National Guard families with refurbished desktop computers earlier this month to ensure they can communicate with deployed loved ones via e-mail.

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Fiona Canavan picks up a computer for her mother, Bridget Angela Durkin, on June 2 during an Operation Homelink event at the National Guard Armory in Wellesley, Mass. Durkin will use the computer to communication with her daughter, Army Spc. Ciara Durkin, who deployed to Afghanistan in February with the 726th Finance Unit of the Massachusetts National Guard. Photo by Tom Markham

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

“Communication with home is hugely important to those serving overseas,” Army Brig. Gen. Thomas Sellars, commander of Land Component Command for the Massachusetts Army National Guard, said at the June 2 event near Boston. “On behalf of all those serving in the Massachusetts National Guard, thanks to Operation Homelink and Raytheon for providing our families peace of mind.”

The Boston-area families were the first National Guard families to benefit from Operation Homelink’s program, Dan Shannon, the group’s founder, said. Previously it’s been more cost effective for Operation Homelink to donate its computers to deploying units on active installations, because the recipients all reside near the base.

“Here, outside of Boston, there were enough people within close enough proximity that we were able to help 100 families,” Shannon said. “I wish we could help more of the Guard families, because they’re apart from the bases and don’t have that same network and … a family support center.”

Fiona Canavan, whose sister is deployed with the Massachusetts National Guard’s 726th Finance Unit, was grateful for Shannon’s help.

“This is such a fabulous program,” Canavan, who picked up a computer to help her mother keep in touch with her sister, said during the event. “This is invaluable to someone like my mother, because now she can receive e-mails from my sister letting her know that everything is OK.

“Thank you for helping put my mother’s mind at ease,” she added.

Operation Homelink, a member of the Defense Department’s America Supports You program, accepts corporate donations of used laptop computers, which it resells. The funds from the sale of the laptops are used to purchase refurbished desktop computers to help keep families connected.

America Supports You connects citizens and corporations with military personnel and their families serving at home and abroad.

This event also marked the first time defense contractor Raytheon made a donation to Operation Homelink. It won’t be the company’s last, however, Shannon said. Raytheon has committed to making ongoing donations to Operation Homelink.

“We appreciate Raytheon’s support of our efforts to connect the Guard’s families in Massachusetts with their loved ones serving overseas,” he said. “They had people from (the company) there, I mean senior executives toting out computers (for the families).”

The program has kept more than 2,400 military families connected with their deployed servicemembers since it began in 2003. Shannon said he is planning to expand the program by providing laptops to wounded servicemembers, as well.

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Related Sites:
Operation Homelink
America Supports You

Click photo for screen-resolution imageBrig. Gen. Tom Sellars, commander of the Land Component Command, Massachusetts Army National Guard, was on hand for the distribution of 100 computers to families of the Massachusetts National Guard at the armory in Wellesley on June 2. As he thanked the entities that made the donations possible, Operation Homefront and defense contractor Raytheon, Sellars told those gathered that communication with home is hugely important to those serving overseas. Photo by Tom Markham  
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