Associated Press Writer
Laura Brown, a mother with a son who fought in the Iraq war, is trying to improve conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center — one laptop computer at a time.
The 50-year-old from Cody, Wyo., was chatting on the Internet with the mother of a wounded soldier two years ago when the mother mentioned she had to print out her son's e-mails and take them to him at Walter Reed because there weren't enough laptop computers to go around.
Brown, whose own son had recently returned safely from the war, thought the solution to that problem seemed incredibly easy.
"It just kind of hit me," she said. "If one person needed one, then there's others. ... I mean, my son had e-mail in Iraq. I was really stunned."
So Brown formed a group, Laptops for the Wounded, to raise money for the cause.
Since its fundraising effort began in November 2005, Brown's organization has donated 27 computers to military hospitals around the country — 24 of them to Walter Reed.
On Friday, Brown flew to Washington to deliver 10 donated laptops to the hospital in person.
Those computers, which were upgraded and refitted with new equipment, included Web cameras so soldiers could lay eyes on their families from afar.
"She basically just made it her mission," said Lisa Ramdass, a case manager at the hospital who has been working with Brown to coordinate the donations.
Ramdass said the laptops are used for more than e-mail. One soldier who worked with a donated laptop couldn't speak, and was able to communicate with his family and his doctors by typing on the computer. Others who have eye injuries use the laptops to watch movies or television up close.
The hospital, flooded with wounded from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, has attracted media and congressional scrutiny in the last month, due to reports of shoddy living conditions for soldiers housed there.
Brown said she can relate with the loneliness and isolation of the wounded because she is also disabled, having suffered knee and back injuries in recent years. She is also inspired by her son, who lost his young wife to illness just weeks after they were married several years ago.
Wyoming Rep. Barbara Cubin (news, bio, voting record) said Brown's efforts show the difference one person can make.
"Out of the goodness of her heart, she's turned a few small donations into a national campaign," she said.