11.19.2012Personal Tech

Verizon Wireless Technology Enables Virtual Tours For Veterans

This is a guest post from Columbia, MO resident Sarah Hill, producer of content for the Veterans United Network.

The World War II memorial wasn’t built until 2004 and, sadly, most World War II veterans won’t live long enough to see it. In an effort to get veterans to Washington, D.C., the Honor Flight program has flown thousands of veterans to see this impressive memorial. But, some veterans who apply to go on these free flights are too sick to travel.

Now, using the new technology of Google+ Hangouts and portable WiFi devices like the Verizon Wireless Jetpack™ 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot, there’s a way aging and even terminally ill veterans across the country can share in the Honor Flight experience without leaving their homes, hospital beds or assisted living centers.

In a partnership with Veterans United Home Loans, Virtual Photo Walks and Central Missouri Honor Flight, volunteers are using Google+ Hangouts to provide virtual tours of not only the WWII memorial in Washington, D.C., but Pearl Harbor, the beaches of Normandy, France, the site of the D-Day Invasion, and even battleships like the USS Alabama. Future plans call for virtual tours to Mount Suribachi, the site of the flag raising during the battle of Iwo Jima.

How does it work?

Volunteers bring laptops to aging veterans who experience a virtual tour in real time by joining a Google+ Hangout, which is a 10-person, online video chat room. Since some of the veterans live in facilities without reliable Internet service, the portable Jetpack™ Mobile Hotspots allow Veterans Virtual Tour volunteers to establish online connections through the Verizon Wireless 4G LTE network.

The veterans can then talk with fellow veterans, see their memorials and ask questions about them in real time, all from a laptop. Additional volunteers with video cameras attached to live streaming rigs serve as the arms and legs for the veterans, responding to their requests to move in closer or linger at a certain location near their memorial. The service is free and open to any veteran of any conflict who is not able to fly.

View an example of the virtual veterans’ tours here.

If you know of a veteran who isn’t able to travel who would enjoy a virtual tour of his or her memorial, please visit the Virtual Photo Walks page and fill out the application for the veteran. Don’t wait. We are losing our World War II veterans at a rate of nearly a thousand a day nationwide. Our next flight is in January 2013. And, if you have a Google+ account, you can visit the Veterans United Google+ page and thank a veteran for their service by joining our Hangouts.

Hope to see you soon online!

Sarah Hill lives in Columbia, MO and is the producer of content for the Veterans United Network. She is a pioneer in the use of Google+ Hangouts and Google+ Hangouts On-Air.

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