As we sit in the midst of the holiday season, it's easy to grow jaded with the glut of decorations, carols, and consumerism that have become a part of the season. However, there are some companies that aren't solely focused on increased profits. They're in a giving mood, not just at Christmas time but year-round, when it comes to those people who probably deserve the most generosity: The troops.
Microsoft typically enjoys the holiday season as its Xbox game console continues to be the sort of gift that any gamer will look forward to at Christmas time. Microsoft, though, has taken steps this holiday season to ensure that at least some of those people getting lucky enough to unwrap an Xbox were the soldiers serving America overseas. Microsoft plans to deliver 380 Xbox Kinnects to 42 USO facilities around the world. The USO facilities provide access to PCs, telephones, Wi-Fi, and TVs and over 5 million servicemen and women as well as their families will be able to use the Kinects. The benefits of the systems may extend past just helping the troops have some fun. "U.S. soldiers are starting to see the benefits of the explosion of creativity we’ve seen since releasing the Kinect Software Development Kit," said Curt Kolcun, V.P., Microsoft U.S. Public Sector. "Four Wounded Warrior Facilities in Afghanistan will use Kinect in rehabilitative programs in forward bases where medical equipment is scarce. New Kinect applications will help medical staff determine when troops who have suffered from brain injuries, such as concussions, are able to go back into the field. The USO will work with the local groups to develop an analysis of the results from using Kinect as a tool for cognitive and memory reinforcement."
One of the hardest things for families that have someone serving overseas to endure is the distance from a loved one. The stress and concern of having a son, daughter, mother, father, or sibling in the military can be compounded by being unable to stay in touch as closely as one would want. Well, Google has taken steps to do what it can to keep families and friends connected to their soldiers just a bit better. Google announced in August that uniformed military personnel would be able to use G-mail's call phone feature to call their loved ones for free. In the G-mail blog, Ilya Frank, Senior Software Engineer at Google, stated that "We recognize and appreciate the sacrifices U.S. troops make when they serve abroad, and we’re proud to help make it a little bit easier for them to stay connected and hear a familiar voice."
The Walt Disney Company (DIS)
Giving troops abroad a little piece of home has long been the stated goal of the USO. From the days of Bob Hope performing for soldiers fighting in World War II to modern acts like Louis C.K. or Stephen Colbert entertaining troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, the USO has worked to give our fighting men and women a chance to escape their duties for a short time and enjoy top tier entertainers doing their part. As such, Disney's decision to become a USO world sponsor is just one part of how Disney tries to provide what support entertainment can offer to the military. Disney subsidiaries from ABC to ESPN also participate, offering radio broadcasting to military bases and distributing free copies of ESPN The Magazine on USO tours.
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (WMT)
When Wal-Mart President and CEO Bill Simon, himself a former Navy man, addressed the 93rd National Convention of the American Legion on August 31, he espoused the important lessons that he learned about life during his service. He also pledged to double Wal-Mart's commitment to veteran's programs that promote job training to $20 million over the next five years. This comes after, on Veteran's Day of 2008, the Walmart Foundation donated $3.6 million to help veterans pursue college degrees, including $2.5 million given to the American Council on Education (ACE). “The men and women who serve our country are our nation’s heroes,” said Margaret McKenna, president of the Walmart Foundation. “The Walmart Foundation is proud to support programs that help our veterans get the resources they need to succeed in their education and their transition back to civilian life.”
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