Key Biscayne Essential: Winnie Pritchett & Amy Zambrano

Fighting on the Front Lines for American Soldiers


By Brett Graff


Amy Zambrano and Winnie Pritchett deliver iPads to soldiers at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center
Key Biscayners Winnie Pritchett and Amy Zambrano collect their own intelligence on the Afghan war -- capable at any moment of reporting the number of casualties that week or how many soldiers were deployed that month. They’re also familiar with many of the personal plights of those stationed overseas, including the story of the medic who watched his platoon-member die while pulling his third wounded soldier in the helicopter. And the sergeant who served for seven years and became a triple amputee just before his first child was born.

“You can’t imagine how many people say, ‘I thought we pulled all our troops out and the war is over,’” says Zambrano, who attributes that mind frame to events in Iraq.

Zambrano and Prichett have a good view of the statistics and the stories behind them because they founded iPadsforSoldiers.com, a non-profit organization that raises money -- and spends every penny, meaning zero administrative costs – to buy these portable devices for those fighting in the war in Afghanistan. Since 2009, when Pritchett’s son was deployed, the organization has purchased and presented nearly 900 iPads to military members, first targeting those stationed in remote locations – so they could communicate with their families, listen to music and even take college courses. Later, they started reaching out to the amputees who wouldn’t be able to type on clunky laptop but can almost effortlessly operate the touch screens.

“You do not have a clear picture of this war until you walk the halls of this nation's military hospitals, meeting these young heroes, many missing multiple limbs, some having lost half their skulls to bullets,” says Zambrano. “The most incredible part? They are as busy thanking us as we are thanking them for their tremendous sacrifices.”

Pritchett and Zambrano work tirelessly to raise money for the organization. They say the Key Biscayne community has been overwhelmingly generous, not only donating money but also providing outreach to corporate donors, such as Diageo. (Apple Inc., they say, has not made a donation or provided a discount outside of the 4 percent it gives typical bulk orders.) However recently, movie director Tom Shadyak (Ace Venture, Bruce Almighty) provided a donation large enough for the organization to purchase 55 new iPads, which they’ll deliver to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda this August.

“Whether you believe in the war or not, we have 90,000 troops in Afghanistan,” says Pritchett. “Besides being useful, these iPads tell the soldiers, ‘You’re not forgotten.’”

WHO WANTS AN IPAD?
  • Soldiers use iPads to communicate with their loved ones back home but also to take educational courses and get real estate licenses and other degrees. But that’s not all, because Zambrano and Pritchett also get requests from:
  • Chaplains traveling to various bases, wanting to arrive with a means for soldiers to speak to families.
  • Mechanics who could operate more efficiently carrying an iPad rather than 12 pounds worth of manuals and books.
  • Medics who want their wounded to be able to connect visually with loved ones, letting them know they’re alive.
  • Mothers – one of whom has three daughters overseas in different areas of Afghanistan -- with children, but no computer.
  • Those in areas so horribly remote they "take showers with water bottles" and have for entertainment only dog-eared books, random free weights and a beat up football.

iPadsForSoldiers delivers the devices to those stationed overseas
Who do you want to read about? Email brettgraff@yahoo.com.

Brett Graff is a former U.S. government economist who today reports on money, power and the economic forces affecting real people. Dubbed “The Home Economist,” her work has appeared in The Miami Herald, Glamour, Maxim, Harper’s Bazaar, Redbook, Ladies’ Home Journal, Parents and Cosmopolitan. Online, she’s the financial expert for TheNest.com and writes for Bankrate.com, Yahoo! finance, Fox Business News, MSN.com, ModernMan.com, TheHomeEconomist.com and more. She lives in Key Biscayne with her husband and daughters.

Related Features on SocialMiami