This article originally appeared in the Metropolitan Monitor, October 2012

NEW YORK CITY – Tom Brokaw helped honor the Coming Home Project, a Bay Area group that specializes in supporting and educating veterans, in an event this afternoon at a restaurant in midtown Manhattan.

The Coming Home Project was the winner of a $500,000 prize for the Simulate a Better World Challenge from Will Interactive, a simulation software firm in Potomac, Maryland. The award went to an organization with an idea for an interactive, film-based simulation to address a social issue. The Coming Home Project was picked by an online vote through Will’s website and a panel of judges including Brokaw; writer Wes Moore; former ambassador and congresswoman Connie Morella; and former CEO of Fidelis, Gerry Byrne.

“The challenge was open to anyone who had an idea about how our interactive movies could make their workplace, organization, community or our world a better place, and quite frankly, we were overwhelmed by the response,” said Sharon Sloane, co-founder and CEO of Will Interactive.

The Coming Home Project will use the $500,000 award to help develop a simulation to assist veterans, their families and employers with the transition from active duty to civilian life.

Sloane played a two-minute video featuring clips from Will Interactive’s previous simulations. The video opens with a military truck eluding gunfire through a war-torn landscape. Another clip featured a veteran being questioned by his employer about his poor performance. The vet complained about the frequent pain in his hand and the employer helped look for a solution. During a clip, the screen pauses and three scenarios are displayed that the user has to choose from in order for the film to progress.

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“These simulations allow users to become the characters in these full length motion pictures, make the decisions that change the story line, see the consequences of these choices, and live them out,” said Sloane. “Everything you see in our simulations actually happened. We don’t make stuff up. They’re all real stories.”

Joe Bobrow, the founder and president of the Coming Home Project, said the organization will use the funds to find new ways to create post-military success for veterans.

“It’s up to us to create, what I would call, a connective social tissue that can ensure that no vet or no family falls through,” Bobrow said. “Of course they want good jobs, they

want to make some money and they want to support their families, but they also want meaningful productive employment.”

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for veterans hit 6.7 percent in September, its lowest level in three years, while the general population stands most recently at 7.8 percent unemployment.

“I think the potential here is to help a divided nation beleaguered by 11 years of war, and knitting ourselves together,” Bobrow added.

With less than a month away before the presidential election, Brokaw alluded to the politically charged atmosphere that tends to leave the country divided.

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“This is a complex time in America. We’re trying to figure out where we’ve been, where we are and where we’re going, and my own very strong feeling is that we need strong ideas that unify us,” Brokaw said. “This is a big idea that can unify us.”

Will Interactive plans to launch its new simulation with the Coming Home Project within a year.