Website bonds military loved ones facing same challenges
By Ariana Crisafulli
People talk about “supporting the troops,” but supporting the troops can become a lonely prospect when you are the loved one of a member of the military.
Allee Campbell, creator of CamoConnect.com, discovered this after she fell in love with Camp Pendleton-based 1st Lt. Mike Tozzolo and endured two deployments.
Now, as the one-year anniversary of the website—created for military spouses, family and friends to share stories and meet new friends—nears, online membership continues to grow.
Finding that she needed support, Campbell searched the Internet for a support system where she could take comfort in others in a similar situation.
She did not know anyone else who had a loved one in the military. She did not live on base at Camp Pendleton and was not acquainted with other military wives or girlfriends.
It was the loneliness and need for support that prompted her to create CamoConnect.
“This was my second deployment with my boyfriend and the first one was tough because I knew no one that had a loved one in the military. The support system was not there and it made getting through the deployment tough,” Campbell said.
“I wanted to change that and create a place where military loved ones can connect and support each other, whether they are five miles away or stationed in Japan.”
She soon discovered, after the launch of CamoConnect in February 2012, that many others in her situation shared her need for support. The website grew rapidly within the first few weeks and membership is still on the rise.
“It’s crazy how much the site has grown since launching in February. I have members from every state and about 10 countries,” Campbell said. Today, the website has about 3,000 members.
“This overwhelming response has led me to believe that more people could benefit from this network,” Campbell said.
The website is not used to contact military loved ones, but rather for the loved ones to contact each other and help one another through rough times.
“No one else knows what you’re going through and it’s tough. When my boyfriend was in Afghanistan, I talked to him maybe once every three weeks, so it was good to have others to talk to,” Campbell said.
On the website, “a loved one can go on and create a profile, then upload pictures, post blogs, post discussions, join groups and create long lasting friendships.”
To combat the possibility of sensitive, inside information being leaked to those who would seek to harm military personnel, Campbell created a list of strict Operations Security, or OPSEC, guidelines warning members what not to post on the site. Rules include the restriction of posting exact deployment dates, camp locations, convoy routes, specific names or nicknames, details concerning security procedures, response times, tactics and more.
For the most part, CamoConnect is overwhelmingly filled with love, stories of strength, excitement for the return of loved ones and loving advice for those who are struggling through a deployment.
Members post pictures of times with their loved ones, or engagement announcements or pictures of their children. Often times, members ask questions for anyone to answer, all knowing that every other member on the site has or is going through the same thing.
As for the creator of CamoConnect, she recently moved to Monterey, Calif. where her boyfriend, Mike, is back from his second deployment and attending the Naval Postgraduate School.
“It was indescribable the feeling I had when I saw Mike for the first time in almost eight months. Words can’t describe the joy I felt in my heart. I’m so happy to have him home,” Campbell said.
She will continue her work on CamoConnect from Monterey with hopes of connecting more military loved ones.
For more information, log on to www.camoconnect.com.