Posted by Scott Pitasky
Corporate Vice President, Human Resources Talent & Organization Capability Group, Microsoft

On the eve of Veteran’s Day, Microsoft made a permanent digital salute to mark the service of our employees who have served in the U.S. military.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and others revealed the “Wall of Honor” at our Redmond headquarters on Thursday in front of a crowd of employees, thanking them and their families for their sacrifices.

“Our goal today is to recognize the contribution of Microsoft employees who served in the military or continue to serve in the military. Some are deployed today, and our thoughts are with them and their families for their safe return,” Ballmer said.

He unveiled the salute with the help of retired Marine Major General Chris Cortez, the general manager of Strategic Programs for U.S. Public Sector Services, who is the executive sponsor of the Veterans at Microsoft employee group.

The salute is a “living” digital display featuring alternating photographs and stories about Microsoft employees currently serving in the military and those who have served in the past. The display is flanked on each side by shelves holding helmets, patches and other military artifacts on loan from employees as well as the company’s prestigious Freedom Award, the highest award the military gives to industry for supporting its members.

The new digital salute stands near a significant and symbolic wall in Building 33 – Microsoft’s section of the Berlin Wall. The development of the salute was the culmination of a partnership between Microsoft and the Military Employee Networking Group led by R.J. Naugle, an army veteran and senior program manager.

Our Military Employee Networking Group plays an active role in supporting employee veterans and employees serving in the Reserves. They are also involved in supporting our Military2Microsoft program, which helps U.S. veterans and those serving in the National Guard and Reserves transition into the civilian work force and find job opportunities within Microsoft. The Military2Microsoft program incorporates a variety of resources to help make the job search experience easier for military talent. This includes WeStillServe.com, a site that connects transitioning military members to the Military Employee Networking Group and helps match candidates to job opportunities within the company.

Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are facing unemployment rates of 12.1 percent – that’s three percent higher than the national unemployment average. In an effort to help train veterans for jobs, the company has donated funds, software and other resources to organizations that help close the opportunity divide for more servicemen and women, as well as their spouses - including $12 million to its Elevate America veterans initiative.

Earlier this week, Microsoft announced it will expand the Elevate America program with the availability of new technology skills and certification “packages” for veterans and their spouses. These vouchers will be available in the five communities in the U.S. with the highest number of post-9/11 era veterans and distributed in partnership with local Workforce Areas.

For more detail on the extended Elevate America program, read this Thursday post on the Microsoft Citizenship Blog.