News: Operation Homelink
Story by Sgt. Joe Padula
FORT CAMPBELL, Kentucky – One hundred smiles, 100 handshakes, 200 thank yous; 100 members of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), received free refurbished laptops and webcams during Operation Homelink at Fort Campbell’s Family Resource Center, Jan. 26.
Fluor, Inc. of Irving, Tx., the number one Fortune 500 Company for engineering and construction, made the Operation Homelink donations possible. The Screaming Eagle family members were excited to receive their new electronic devices.
“I am ecstatic about having this laptop and was very surprised when I first heard of this opportunity,” said Cassie Coley, wife of Spc. Arthur Coley, a cargo specialist with the division’s 101st Sustainment Brigade and she is also the mother of eight-month-old Brianna Coley. “I think this is a great thing done for my family by these really thoughtful people.”
Operation Homelink is an all-volunteer, non-profit organization founded in the fall of 2002. Their mission is to facilitate e-mail messaging, social networking and video communication between servicemembers deployed overseas to their families back home.
The group does not look at the laptops as a free gift, but as something already the soldiers and family members have earned.
“We appreciate the sacrifices made by today’s Soldier and their spouses and they deserve our respect,” said Dan Shannon, president and founder of Operation Homelink. “These laptops that are being providing today were earned a long time ago when that soldier strapped on their boots, stood up and said, ‘send me.’ They are earned every early morning when that spouse gets up and gets those kids off to school; this is a small token to show them our appreciation.”
Eligible for the gifts are soldiers and their family members ranging from the pay grades of E1 to E5, private to sergeant. During this particular Operation Homelink drop-off, the receiving families were given the tools to stay in contact with their deploying heroes with a refurbished Dell laptop and web cam.
“It’s not everyday you find people that are kind enough to do something like this and a soldier’s pay isn’t the highest around, don’t get me wrong, I don’t serve for the money, but my family actually did need a laptop,” said Spc. Coley. “It is difficult to stay in touch with family while overseas and this helps staying in contact with my wife during deployments.”
The 101st Airborne Division currently has units deployed to Afghanistan with more about to go as its headquarters unit began their deployment process with a casing of the colors ceremony held Jan. 25. Operation Homelink, whose supporters now include companies like Fluor, Raytheon, Dell and Southwest Airlines, has distributed 7,100 computers to military families, wounded warriors and unemployed veterans since its founding. Operation Homelink’s goal to support the members of the armed forces by bridging the gap of time and distance while separated, is considered an honor on their behalf.
“I am humbled and have such an appreciation for anyone that wears the uniform and their family members and their stories,” said Shannon. “Today a young woman, with tears in her eyes, told me about her four-month-old son named Aiden and how she wanted him to remember his deployed father’s voice and face, so that Aiden would then recognize his father when he returns home. Hearing the story about Aiden makes everything we’ve done all worth it; we are blessed and fortunate to serve those who serve.”