Wednesday, April 04, 2007

IBM Translates Tragedy on the Battlefield into a Triumph of Compassion

I have breaking news that I need to share. I just got off the phone with my friend, Arlen Ecker, whose nephew, Sgt. Mark Ecker of East Longmeadow, Massachusetts, was wounded a few weeks ago in Iraq in an IED explosion. Young Ecker eventually lost both legs below the knee, and is undergoing extensive treatment and rehabilitation at Walter Reed Army Hospital.

Sgt. Ecker’s father is a longtime employee of IBM. Shortly after Ecker received the news of his son’s injuries, word began to spread throughout the IBM company grapevine. The follow excerpts are drawn from an ABC News story, a link to which appears below:

"It became a human interest story within IBM. The e-mail list of people that wanted to hear about Mark and were concerned about Mark kept on growing and growing and growing to the point where people very high up at IBM became aware of the situation."

The next thing he knew, IBM Chairman and CEO Samuel J. Palmisano's office was calling to inform him of the donation.

"It made me proud to be an IBMer and proud of IBM. I was just amazed and shocked. The sense of pride is overwhelming," Ecker said.

IBM is donating 10,000 copies of software that allows instantaneous voice translation between English and Arabic. The company is also donating 1,000 laptops or handheld devices to run the software and giving the Department of Defense technical help installing the program. The U.S. government is reviewing laws to see if it can accept the gift.”

In subsequent events, Senator Kennedy and President Bush have stopped by Walter Reed to visit with Sgt. Ecker. It is my understanding that members of the Ecker family will be interviewed on CNN in the next day.

There were six of Ecker’s fellow soldiers injured with him in the explosion. Please keep each of these brave soldiers and their families in your prayers as they go through the grueling work of rehabilitation.

Above all, I urge you to use IBM’s example to think creatively about how all of us should be responding. The level of caring and generosity exhibited by IBM – from the Chairman and CEO down to Mr. Ecker’s co-workers - is newsworthy because it is unusual. Let’s use Big Blue’s outpouring of Red, White and Blue patriotism to spur on other companies, communities, organizations and neighborhoods to make concrete gestures of support to the men and women fighting abroad and to those returning from Iraq broken in body but unbowed in spirit.

Stay tuned for a posting tomorrow introducing two groups I recently became aware of that are reaching out to our troops in significant ways.


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