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By JOSHUA COFFMAN
ELIZABETHTOWN — A group of local people launched a Web site they hope will become a hub for service members to socialize — especially those overseas communicating with family members.
MyArmedForcesHero.com is a Hodgenville-based site developed by Arnie and Susan Lambert along with Gerry Hignite and Tim Thomas.
It seeks to establish a representative near each military installation and offer discounts, multimedia social networking and a trading post for troops to swap furniture and other household items.
Arnie Lambert and Thomas brainstormed the venture while returning home from a business trip to Paducah as they discussed the hundreds of dollars a soldier can rack up in phone bills from talking to spouses while they serve in Iraq or Afghanistan.
“Our soldiers are coming home in debt just to talk to their loved ones,” Lambert said.
The Web site will offer real-time video telephone and Facebook-style personal pages for e-mail, photos and video.
And its creators say it will not cost military members a dime to use it.
Business sponsors will offer discounts to troops on a section of the site that makes its debut today. With that feature along with other forms of sponsorships, the owners hope to turn a profit.
A portion of proceeds will be donated to soldier-support nonprofit groups such as Radcliff-based USA Cares.
The founders also are in negotiations with celebrity and corporate supporters, including a possible program in which high-profile faces will videotape themselves reading children’s stories to be posted on the site.
Another feature will let users create online memorial pages for deceased service members, including pictures, a bulletin board and video.
The site’s goal is to have enough broadband for full video capabilities by Veterans Day.
In addition to keeping overseas service members in touch with loved ones, the Web site features a trading post, a la Craigslist, where troops switching duty stations can arrange to leave behind a swing set or gas grill by selling it to an incoming or existing service member.
“The possibilities are endless with what you can do with that,” Susan Lambert said.
Arnie Lambert said a duty-station move can cost a service member as much as $2,000 out of pocket.
“That’s a pretty big hit for a family when gas is around $4 a gallon,” he said.
The site’s founders already have representation in the Fort Knox and Fort Campbell areas and hopes soon to expand to Fort Bragg, N.C., and other installations in the South before going nationwide.
Thomas is a former National Guardsman and Hignite is a former reserve officer. Both the Lamberts have parents who have served in wars as well as other relatives who have served or are serving in the military.
“I can’t think of a better group to support,” Arnie Lambert said. “These people are fighting for our way of life.”
For more information on MyArmedForcesHero.com, call (270) 268-8732.
Joshua Coffman can be reached at (270) 505-1740.