Thursday, May 28, 2009

Map the Fallen

Earlier this week as the nation marked Memorial Day and remembered the military who have died in service to their country, Map the Fallen was launched to honor post 9/11, US and Coalition forces fallen in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Sean Askay, a Google engineer, who has the coolest job in the world, has been working on a project for 4 years to map the casualties from Iraq & Afghanistan. He explains it this way:
For the past two years I've been working on the Google Earth Outreach team, aimed at helping non-profits and public benefit groups use Google Earth and Google Maps to further their cause. In that time I've worked on so many cool projects, from training indigenous communities in Brazil on the use of internet and mapping technologies, to helping with Google's disaster response mapping efforts for the San Diego fires and Cyclone Nargis, to even working with NASA to get a copy of Google Earth on the International Space Station (more on that later!). I'm also in charge of the Global Awareness layers in Google Earth and helped develop and polish many of those projects, including Crisis in Darfur and Appalachian Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining.

This Memorial Day I would like to share with you a personal project of mine that uses Google Earth to honor the more than 5,700 American and Coalition servicemen and women that have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. I have created a map for Google Earth that will connect you with each of their stories—you can see photos, learn about how they died, visit memorial websites with comments from friends and families, and explore the
places they called home and where they died.
Sean contacted me a few weeks back asking for feedback on his soon to be released project. He was interested in hearing from Gold Star families. My first reaction when I got his sensitive email was to burst into tears. I was overwhelmed at the amount of work that went into the project and amazed that Sean had taken the time to gather so much information to honor the fallen in this way. As a self-described nerd, I was thrilled to see the melding of technology with these names, ages, hometowns, place of death to tell a remarkable story about each one of the casualties. Since I live in Google-town, it was easy to meet with Sean the same day that I received his email. I couldn't wait to express my thanks to him and to hear and see more about the project.

Please take the time to visit Map the Fallen and learn about the people behind the names and numbers on those stark lists of casualties. Go to my son, 1Lt Ken Ballard's hometown of Mountain View, CA and fly to Najaf, Iraq, where he died on May 30, 2004. Read his obituary from the San Jose Mercury News and read the Department of Defense announcement of his death. I would expect that you won't be able to stop at Ken's story. With 5679 stories, there is plenty to learn about these young men and women who stood up to serve their country. These stories will tell you that they lived and not just how they died.

I can never adequately express my thanks to Sean for all of the work he put into making this project come to life. And thanks to Google who allow their employees to work 20% of their time on personal projects; I hope they all have the impact that this one does.

Watch John King of CNN demonstrate Map The Fallen

CNN reports on Map the Fallen

1 comment:

libhom said...

I can't even bring myself to look at it yet. To me, it symbolizes the failure of us in the peace movement to stop the insane war in Iraq.