There's a common thread among war shooters these days; they all go for big explosions and massive set pieces. The stark reality of war doesn't fit in with the gaming world's picture of big-budget blockbusters and guns-blazing combat. While video gaming may emphasize the violence and carnage of virtual battlefields, gamers also tend to remember the memorable lead troopers who charge onto the field, machine guns roaring and grenades flying. Yet we sometimes forget the real service members who sacrifice so much on a daily basis. If you watch either of the documentaries, Restrepo and The Battle for Marjah, embedded below you'll find an unglamorous view of combat that games rarely depict.
The Battle for Marjah:
The everyday heroes documented in these films have been through hell and worse, often forfeiting months of time with their families and the comforts of home. When they return, they often can't find employment at a job or have experienced severe psychological damage, leading to difficulties in reintegrating into civilian life. One film, To Hell and Back Again, depicts a wounded warrior's return home from Afghanistan and it isn't clear as to which is more hellish; the war or the reintegration. While we may remain ignorant of the struggles of veterans and soldiers around the world, two gaming giants have taken proactive steps to make sure we never forget. Activision and EA's Danger Close, though rivals in the FPS market, also understand that giving back to our troops should be one of our primary goals. With the Call of Duty Endowment and the recently revealed Project HONOR, EA/Danger Close and Activison have done just that.
The Call of Duty Endowment fund, founded in October 2009, is designed to help returning veterans find employment. While unemployment may be a pressing concern nationwide, veterans face a particularly staggering challenge finding a job. Veterans aged 20 to 24 tend to have a 30-31% rate of unemployment (Sept. 2011) compared to the national average of 15% for the same age group. Between 130,000 to 150,000 soldiers leave active service each year, so that means roughly 40,000 to 50,000 soldiers can't find work. For all of the the mortars, gunfire, bombs, and ambushes they've endured, they come home to find a public work sector unwilling to grant them unemployment. That's a tragedy, one that the Call of Duty endowment has vowed to fix. By raising millions of dollars in the CODE fund, Activision actively supports veteran employment training programs, CODE advocacy, awareness of veteran unemployment issues, and job fairs. The CODE program has made its mission to support returning soldiers with the tools and resources they need to find employment stateside. It's a great way to give back to soldiers who have given so much and face major obstacles in returning to the civilian world.
In a similar manner, EA and Danger Close have established the Project HONOR program. Project HONOR, which seeks to give back to the families of fallen soldiers and their dependents, receives charitable donations from major military arms and gear manufacturers/distributors, including London Bridge Tactical (LBT) and Magpul. In particular, LBT has spearheaded an initiative to sell Medal of Honor-themed gear, with 100% of of sales going to such organizations as the Navy SEAL Foundation and the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. EA, Danger Close, and the Project HONOR affiliates are dedicated to aiding those who have answered the call and sacrificed on behalf of the American public. Though our debt to our service members will never be repaid in full, this is the least we can do to honor their memory and valor.
As Americans it's easy to detach ourselves from the world around us. Surrounded my technology, gaming, movies, and pop culture, we have more than enough to distract us from the inconvenient truths. However, we should never forget the sacrifices soldiers make on a daily basis. They are subjected to some of the worst physical and mental abuse possible. How are service members undeserving of a comfortable life just like everyone else? Thankfully, there are people who remember and also want to ensure the public doesn't forget its heroes.