MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Maintaining communication with family members is extremely important for Marines and it can be tough to stay connected when deployed to the far corners of the world.
Many service members have email access overseas, on ships and even in remote desert outposts. Sometimes, however, young Marines’ families are not able to afford a computer and must rely on expensive phone calls or slow postal services to stay in touch.
Now, 250 service members will be able to keep in touch in an instant thanks to Dell and Operation Homelink. The two organizations have teamed up to provide 250 refurbished desktop computers to families of deployed II Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) Marines.
“We provide free refurbished computers to the spouses or parents of junior enlisted deployed service members, enabling email communication with their loved ones deployed overseas,” said Don Shannon, founder of Operation Homelink, during the computer giveaway at the USO in Jacksonville, N.C. Jan. 10.
Some of the Marines and family members present have been through deployments before and are excited about the opportunities that the computer will bring.
"This will definitely help with communication while I'm away on my deployment," said Cpl. Jason S. Parker an Inman, S.C. native and radio operator with the 22d Marine Expeditionary Unit. "It gives me a sense of security knowing my wife will be able to contact me more this deployment and I'll be able to ensure everything is alright while I'm gone."
The various models of computers donated came from companies who leased the machines and returned them to Dell after upgrading to newer models. Many of the computers are just a few years old.
“My husband just deployed with the 26th [Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable)], and we had no means of communication except for letter mail,” said Teddie McCoy, wife of Lcpl. Anthony McCoy with the MEU’s Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion 2nd Marine Regiment. “I’m excited I’ll actually get to talk to him from day to day. I’m sure it will help us get through this a lot easier.”
Marine spouses are not the only family members benefiting from the donated computers.
“I’m not married, so I’m going to give my computer to my father, so I can stay in touch with him while I’m deployed,” said Lcpl. Dana Brelowski, a Chicago native with Combat Logistics Battalion 6. “This will be my first deployment and I know this will help us a lot.”
Originally, II MEF was given only 130 tickets for the desktop computers but due to the high demand of Marines requesting a computer for their families, Dell increased the number of computers to 250, making this donation the most Operation Homelink has ever given.
“We know Camp Lejeune has over 24,000 Marines and Sailors and the majority of those Marines fall under II MEF, said Travis Simpson, Vice President of Dell Operations in North Carolina. “We at Dell decided to increase the number to help more servicemembers and their families,” he added.
Since 2004, Operation Homelink has provided 600 Dell computers to families of servicemembers deployed outside of the continental United States from Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Campbell, Ky.; and Fort Bragg, N.C. The organization plans to make similar donations at other military installations in the months ahead.
“I know what it’s like to be in a military family, to have someone deploy for months and wait so long for a letter in the mail,” said Simpson whose father was a military member. “I know this will speed up the communication process.”