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Oregon Veterans Home program director Jeremy Woodall hands a newly donated tablet to Blake Vawter, 75, a U.S. Navy veteran and resident at the Home.

LEBANON — Every Marine is a rifleman, the old saying goes.

But Marine Randy Snider, 70, a Vietnam veteran, will soon face a new challenge much different than sighting in a rifle. He’s going to learn how to use a new Samsung tablet computer, one of 20 donated Monday to the Edward C. Allworth Veterans Home by the Salem and Keizer Elks lodges.

“It’s going to be a new experience,” Snider said. “I usually just use the telephone to call my wife. But, it’s great and I am going to find out what it will do for me.”

Navy veteran Blake Vawter already has some experience using a tablet computer.

“I don’t know how to turn it on or make it work, but my daughter will help me,” he said.

Blake Whitson and Corrine Arehart, leading knights for the Salem and Keizer Elks lodges respectively, said the project started about six months ago.

Whitson, who lives in Lebanon, said the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks has long been committed to veterans’ causes.

“My dad, Garry, and I met with (veterans home) program director Jeremy Woodall and talked about needs,” Whitson said. “The Elks National Foundation provides grants for projects like this every year and the Salem lodge applied for and received a $2,000 grant.”

Whitson said he mentioned the project during a district meeting and Arehart and the Keizer lodge jumped on board, adding another $1,000.

The Salem lodge then added another $500 to purchase 20 Google gift cards worth $25 apiece to accompany each tablet.

The Lebanon Walmart provided a deep discount from the tablet’s $199 retail price, Whitson said.

Woodall said the tablets will provide residents with numerous opportunities. In particular, they will be able to connect over the internet with specialists from the Department of Veterans Affairs through a program called Telehealth.

“We have veterans with PTSD who do not want to talk about their issues in a group setting,” Woodall said. “Now, they will be able to connect with an individual counselor and, in the privacy of their own room, get the help they need.”

Through the Telehealth program, residents will be able to receive individual mental health counseling, rehabilitation services and equipment information, consultations prior to surgeries, cardiology, neurology, nutrition and more.

And Woodall said, residents will be able to connect with family and friends through such programs as Skype.

“This will allow them to talk and see their family and friends anytime they wish," he said.

“This donation is far and above what we expected,” Woodall said.

Residents will be able to check out the tablets and Whitson said several Elks members with technology experience have offered to visit and provide on-site hands-on training.

The 154-bed Edward C. Allworth Veterans Home is starting its fourth year of service.

To learn about volunteer activities at the veterans home, email volunteer.coordinator@ovhlebanon.org.

Contact Linn County reporter Alex Paul at 541-812-6114.

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