Microsoft Corp., in collaboration with the United Service Organizations (USO), is
proud to announce the winners of the Microsoft Above and Beyond Awards. The awards
recognize the contributions of citizens across the country who brighten the lives
of U.S. troops throughout the world.
"These winners are remarkable examples of how everyday people can do extraordinary
things," said Curt Kolcun, Vice President of Microsoft Federal.
"Their actions showcase the best of American citizenship, selflessness, and support
for our service members and their families - they are true testaments of how to
salute our troops."
Chosen through a public online vote, the following winners will be honored for their
service in these categories:
Effort Award: Patti Patton-Bader, Pasadena, Calif. Soon after
Patton-Bader began sending care packages to her son in Iraq, she started a group
of volunteers to "adopt" soldiers. Since then, the group's 100,000 members have
sent tens of thousands of care packages and hundreds of thousands of letters to
make sure no soldier is forgotten while serving. Its motto: "May no soldier go unloved."
Attention Award: Walter Fricke, St. Louis Park, Minn. Fricke,
a helicopter pilot wounded in the Vietnam War, knows firsthand that family can be
the key to a soldier's recovery. One year ago, Walt founded The Veterans Airlift
Command, not only volunteering his own aircraft and fuel, but creating a national
network of over 500 volunteer aircraft owners and pilots who have joined in the
effort to reunite wounded service members with families. The group has already flown
over 180,000 miles to help bring wounded troops back together with their loved ones.
Promotion and Success Award: Paulette Nelson, Savannah, GA. Before
her son's best friend's father was deployed to Iraq, Paulette didn't even know what
deployment meant. But after noticing the tearful goodbyes, Paulette decided she
wanted to help make a difference. Now she operates the Savannah airport's USO station,
and from Hunter Army Airfield she makes sure every soldier gets a warm welcome,
and a warm send off, even lending her cell phone so they can make that one last
phone call home.
Difference Award: Todd Schmidt, Burke, Va. While on patrol in
Afghanistan, Maj. Schmidt came up with an idea to provide school supplies for local
kids. Thanks to him, donors and volunteers have sent hundreds of thousands of dollars
worth of textbooks, school supplies and secondhand clothes to Afghanistan, Iraq
and Kosovo. Under Schmidt's leadership, Operation Dreamseed has even helped build
a school outside Kandahar City by raising more than $80,000 for the cause.
Youth Leadership Award: Brittany and Robbie Bergquist, Norwell,
Mass. Just 13 and 12 years old, these siblings heard about a soldier who had run
up an $8,000 phone bill calling home. With two cousins deployed overseas, Brittany
and Robbie know how important phone calls could be, so they committed themselves
to helping soldiers call home. To date, they have raised nearly $1 million and donated
over 450,000 phone cards, equaling 2.5 million minutes of talk time
After announcing the awards in mid-September, Microsoft and the USO received hundreds
of nominations, narrowed down the list to finalists in each of the five categories,
and facilitated a public online vote to choose the winners.
The awards will be presented on Veterans Day (observed), Nov. 12 at a ceremony in
New York City's Rainbow Room.
"We knew we were on to something special when we first discussed with Microsoft
how we could honor those who serve our troops," said Elaine Rogers, President, USO
of Metropolitan Washington. "Now, seeing how these winners embody the principles
of service and community should inspire each of us towards greater contribution."
Kolcun added, "All of our nominees, finalists, and many others out there who support
our troops everyday should all be commended for their great work to support our
services members and their families. We hope this handful of wonderful examples
helps further everyone's efforts and inspires others to get involved."