Using the Internet to erect video links, a California couple have established a program where professional athletes play video games with members of the U.S. military, thereby giving the troops some much needed fun, says an organizer of those events.
The program—called Pro vs. GI Joe—is the brain-child of Greg and Addie Zinone, who founded the organization in 2007 as a way “to give back to our military men and women in a truly unique, fun and interactive way.”
The men and women of the military who put themselves in harm’s way to defend our freedoms deserve an opportunity unique to them, Pro vs. GI Joe says on its website. Therefore the organization is doing what “no other morale boosting organization does,” that is to use the best of today’s modern technology to make virtual connections via video games and webcams, simultaneously, around the world.
In partnership with the USO, the group sets up realtime video game competitions between professional athletes, musicians, celebrities, high-ranking military officials and politicians (all of whom are in the United States) with troops stationed overseas. Pro vs. GI Joe has organized such gaming events with troops serving in Afghanistan, Cuba, Dubai, Germany, Iraq, Japan, Korea, Kuwait, Qatar and troops stationed at various bases around the United States.
The troops overseas, and those stateside, they put on a headset and get to play a video game they love playing, with a professional athlete, “like they’re buddies in the basement,” said Greg Zinone.
The Zinones came up with the idea to organize the video game events because they “wanted to give a little more,” Greg Zinone said. “We know the troops overseas play video games, professional athletes play video games, so we put the two together, and came up with Pro vs. GI Joe,” he said.
In Afghanistan the troops have to go to an USO Center, because the Internet is not strong enough anywhere else there, Zinone said. The USO has a dedicated signal just for Pro vs. GI Joe, so we can have Pros vs. GI Joes events at each one of those centers, he said.
“They’re (troops) relaxing; they need that. It’s their down time, so why not play some video games,” including “Call of Duty,” which is the most popular game. “We play the games that the troops and pros want to play, because it’s not going to be a good event unless everyone is having a good time, and that’s ‘Call of Duty’,” Zinone said.
While the program revolves around video games, there is a family atmosphere that is fostered by Pro vs. GI Joe. Troops are often separated from their families for months, or years, at a time. The Zinones have had first-hand experience with such separations because Addie is a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army Reserve and has served two tours in Iraq (the first from 2003-2004 and the second 2007-2008). Therefore, in addition to having athletes and celebrities play video games with the troops, whenever it is possible, Pro vs. GI Joe uses the webcams to connect the families of participating troops during those events.