By MCPO Maurice Wilson (USN-Ret.), Advisory Board member to Activision’s Call of Duty Endowment
Note: This post is part of a weeklong celebration of U.S. military veterans. You can find more stories and resources at the Microsoft Citizenship website.
For the families of our soldiers, President Obama’s timetable to bring our troops home at the end of 2011, provides hope and a tangible pledge that their sons, daughters, spouses and parents will be returning to them. For the rest of us, it’s an urgent challenge. It means we have little time left to make sure we don’t do to our soldiers in 2011 what we did to hundreds of young veterans nearly 40 years ago when they returned home from Southeast Asia.
Today’s soldiers that are lucky enough to return home with body and emotions intact face a fresh battle they are often ill-equipped to fight. By some measurements, unemployment among returning veterans is above 20%, roughly twice the national average, and is near 85% for our injured veterans. Just as concerning, the starting pay for veterans averages $10,000 less than what they would make if they had never gone into service.
Recognizing that the private sector is as responsible as the government is in trying to solve this problem, a little more than a year ago, Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard, Inc., asked myself and several former high ranking members of the military to join an advisory board for a newly established non- profit, The Call of Duty Endowment. The organization is dedicated to funding and supporting efforts to provide veterans with job training and placement and bringing greater awareness to this important issue.
Bobby established the Call of Duty Endowment with $1 million in initial seed money to proactively encourage employers to consider veterans for job openings so they can build the foundation for their futures with 21st Century jobs and careers. He saw the creation of the Endowment as a way to recognize the incredible sacrifices endured by our nation’s young men and women in service. It is also his belief, and one that is shared by me and my fellow advisory board members, that our men and women who have given so much to protect our nation and our liberties should not have to return home from one battle only to face another in finding a civilian career.
Since its inception, the Call of Duty Endowment has provided close to $500,000 in grants and scholarships. Organizations and schools that have benefited from the resources of the Endowment include Paralyzed Veterans of America, Wounded Warrior Project, Still Serving Hire Heroes USA, Austin Community College, and Madison Area Technical College, just to name a few.
The men and women that serve in our Armed Forces deserve to be rewarded for the sacrifices they have made to protect our nation, and as an advisory board member to the Call of Duty Endowment I salute this innovative effort put forth by Bobby Kotick and Activision. I hope that more leaders in corporate America will recognize the strengths our veterans bring to the office, laboratory or factory floor with their maturity, discipline, integrity and ability to perform under pressure honed under the stress of close combat. It is only just that we honor them and their families for answering their own call of duty.
About the Call of Duty Endowment
The Call of Duty Endowment helps soldiers transition to civilian careers after their military service, focusing on a variety of initiatives providing job placement and training to veterans and raising public awareness about the issue. Launched in November 2009 by Activision Blizzard, Inc., a worldwide online, PC and console video game publisher and publisher of the best-selling Call of Duty® video game franchise, the Call of Duty Endowment has already provided hundreds of thousands of dollars to support this work.
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