CamoConnect links military family, friends - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

CamoConnect links military family, friends

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Allee Campbell, shown here with her Marine boyfriend, 1st Lt. Mike Tozzolo, started a social networking website where friends and family of military personnel can connect. (Source: Allee Campbell) Allee Campbell, shown here with her Marine boyfriend, 1st Lt. Mike Tozzolo, started a social networking website where friends and family of military personnel can connect. (Source: Allee Campbell)
CamoConnect.com is a website where friends and family of those in the military can make connections. CamoConnect.com is a website where friends and family of those in the military can make connections.

(RNN) - The next social networking site isn't coming from some Harvard genius in Silicon Valley; it was started by a 20-year-old college student who missed her boyfriend.

Allee Campbell was sitting in church two months after the deployment of her Marine boyfriend, listening to the priest give a sermon on the greater good and how to help others – and the idea just came to her: A Facebook website where military loved ones can connect online - CamoConnect.com.

"Connecting All Military Others – is what Camo in CamoConnect stands for. It totally was sent from above," Campbell said. "I didn't even give it a second thought - the name, right away, it connects. Camo is associated with every branch (of the military)."

Campbell met her boyfriend, 1st Lt. Mike Tozzolo, five days before his first deployment to Afghanistan in 2010. Tozzolo is currently on his third deployment.

"I just knew when I sent him off I knew I was going to wait for him," Campbell said.

The deployment was difficult for Campbell, of Orange County, CA, because she did not have access to the support groups or the community that military spouses have. She was going through all the same emotions, but was on the outside.

Her friends and family were trying to be supportive, but weren't quite getting it.

"If I post one status on Facebook, and post another, people are like ‘OK we get it, you miss your boyfriend,'" Campbell said.

One friend couldn't understand her trepidation, telling her that she thought all the troops were out of Afghanistan.

"There are people getting wounded and hurt every day. It was such an ignorant comment," Campbell said.

There are groups and pages on Facebook for wives and family members for the different branches of the military, but Campbell wanted one place where everyone could connect – especially those who were on the periphery of military culture.

"This is open to everyone – because a lot of things are spouses only – this is a safe place for girlfriends to go to," Campbell said. "I think it is a beautiful thing to see all the branches of the military come together and support one another."

The site – which is not affiliated with the military - not only works as a place where girlfriends or boyfriends can find support, but a place to seek advice, as well. For example, if a girlfriend is traveling to Camp Pendleton to visit for a few days, she can ask folks on CamoConnect for advice on the best places to stay.

Campbell created the website in her spare time, as well as Android and iPhone apps to accompany the site, and of course, she maintains a Twitter account: @camoconnect. She's the only person maintaining the site, and has had no previous computer programming experience.

Needless to say, sleep has been scarce.

To sign up for the site, users answer a few questions, and then an email is sent to the new users with a guide on how to use the site and a reminder about security issues, such as not posting where military personnel are located or the dates of deployment.

CamoConnect is similar to Facebook in that users create a profile, upload photos, and even chat with other users. There are forums where people can ask for advice, and users are encouraged to start their own discussions.

Oh, and those status updates about how much you miss your loved that annoy your friends on Facebook? Those are encouraged on CamoConnect.

Campbell has received investment offers and she is considering adding advertising to the website because her passion project is becoming a full-time job.

The site has 1,300 users, including users from Canada, U.K., Australia and even Indonesia. It  has been up for just three months, and is gaining users through her Twitter feed or word of mouth.

"I just want to reach as many people as I can. I won't stop until I reach everyone that I need," Campbell said.

Copyright 2012 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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