DoD photo

Connecticut post keeps local soldiers in touch with their families

American Legion Kiltonic Post 72 in Southington, Conn., has done plenty to support the deployed servicemembers from their state. But when Post Commander Jay Larsen and the rest of his National Guard unit were sent to Kuwait last summer, the local Legionnaires wanted to do more.

"We do stuff for the troops all the time," Post 72 member Stephen Pintarich said. "But when we found out Jay was going, we said, ‘These are our boys. We've got to do something special for them.'"

Pintarich works for Computer Science Corp., which recently donated 58 laptop computers to the Legion's COP Keating Relief Fund. The company provided two laptops that the post gave to Larsen to take with him. The post paid for webcams for each laptop and configured each computer with webcam software, allowing Larsen and the members of his unit to keep in touch with their families back home.

"When we saw the joy on Jay's face when we gave him the laptops, we knew this was a good idea," Pintarich said. "So I went back to my company and asked them if they would donate some more. I said, "Let's do 100,' figuring they would laugh in my face. But they just said, ‘OK, let's keep doing this.'"

Tony Coppola, a senior finance manager for Computer Science Corp., said the company didn't hesitate to help out. "Steve's request was a no-brainer," Coppola told the Hartford Courant. "Donating the computers was an easy decision to make."

The post has shipped 44 webcam-equipped laptops overseas and continues to raise funds to equip future laptops with webcams. They've also gotten other companies to help. "Radio Shack is selling the webcams to us at their employee discount," Pintarich said. "And Microsoft stepped in two weeks ago and is donating Office 2007 to all the machines."

The program has gained a lot of attention.

"People donate a lot of things to us and we're grateful for everything, but this raised eyebrows because laptops are so expensive," state National Guard spokesman Maj. Charles Jaworski told the Courant. "This is big for us."