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Minnesota National Guard
Event distributes computers to military families

Written by
Ben Katzner

It’s no surprise that having a loved one who serves in the military is stressful

The uncertainty that builds during the time friends and family spend apart from them can be agonizing Dan Shannon wants to change that

That’s what brought Shannon, the president and founder of Operation Homelink, to the St Cloud National Guard Training and Community Center on Sunday afternoon

The Chicago-based nonprofit organization is on a mission to provide refurbished computers to families of deployed soldiers It worked with the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Family Programs team to present the computers

“It’s just nice to see that they’re trying to keep the soldiers connected to the families,” said Sarah Imdieke, 23, of Sauk Centre, “to have that little piece of home with (us) while we’re gone for such a long a period of time that’s wonderful”

At Sunday’s event, 150 desktop computers were given to families with members in the 34th Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team The group is scheduled to be deployed in May to the Middle East

“We started the organization a little over eight years ago and since that time, we’ve delivered 3,500 computers to both families of deployed soldiers as well as laptops to wounded soldiers,” Shannon said

Imdieke will be one of the soldiers deploying in May It’s her first deployment, and with a family computer that’s less than reliable, her mother, Diane, said Operation Homelink is a blessing

“We want to be able to see her when she’s away, so to have a computer that has that capability will be great,” she said “For parents, it’s like, well, they could say they’re OK in a letter, or on the phone, but just seeing them, it makes a world of difference, I think”

Shannon said his inspiration for starting the project came almost a year after Sept 11 and watching images of soldiers being deployed to serve their country

“Seeing a father saying goodbye to his wife and kids, as a father of four myself, really hit home with me,” he said “Because I’ve not served myself, I wanted to do something to give a little something back”

Shannon isn’t alone The computers given away Sunday came from a Massachusetts-based company called Raytheon, which already had donated 110 refurbished computers to families of the Massachusetts National Guard Microsoft donates free software updates for the machines and all the work in setting up the event Sunday was done by volunteers

“Everything was 100 percent volunteer-driven,” said Sgt Amy Monson, family programs noncommissioned officer in charge for the state of Minnesota

All that effort wasn’t lost on Diane Imdieke

“I think it’s going to make a world of difference,” she said

“It’s huge in today’s age, it’s instant communication instead of waiting for a letter back and forth,” Monson said “And the soldiers feel that connection with their family because they know that yesterday (something) happened instead of three weeks ago (something) happened”

And that’s exactly the point, Shannon said Seeing families walk away with something that he knows will make a world of difference makes all the hard work worth it, he said But Shannon also was quick to note that Operation Homelink is more than just a giveaway The soldiers and their families pay a price

“While there is no money exchanged for these computers they’re not free, these computers were earned when these soldiers signed up with the National Guard,” Shannon said “We’re here to support all of them, to be able to give a little something back to those families that are making sacrifices for the rest of America We’re proud to be able to do this work”

6:58 AM on April 4, 2011

What a wonderful project Thank You!!!!

5:27 PM on April 4, 2011

What a great idea and great program to match the idea Kudos!

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