The US Military Is Fighting the UK and Canada in 'Call of Duty: Warzone'

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The Call of Duty Endowment's annual CODE Bowl bring together military esports teams to play "Call of Duty: Warzone" to celebrate the mission of advancing sustainable veteran employment. (Activision)

Game maker Activision Blizzard and the Call of Duty Endowment have a lot to celebrate this year, and they're kicking off the party on Thursday with the annual C.O.D.E. Bowl, a gaming tournament that brings together U.S. military esports teams and those from the United Kingdom (and, for the first time, Canada) armed forces -- along with top "Call of Duty" streamers -- to compete for the C.O.D.E. Bowl trophy and bragging rights.

Activision Blizzard is celebrating the upcoming release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III, which will be available on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X and Windows on Nov. 10, 2023. But C.O.D.E. Bowl IV competitors won't be playing this new game (like real military forces, it would be ridiculous to go into combat with untrained troops); instead, players will shoot it out on the Al-Mazrah map in "Call of Duty: Warzone."

The UK's Royal Air Force will return to the tournament to defend its 2022 come-from-behind victory over the then-defending champions, the U.S. Space Force. Other teams in the third C.O.D.E. Bowl included the Royal Navy, British Army, U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Coast Guard esports teams. Joining them for the first time will be the Royal Canadian Air Force team for a total of 10 competitors.

Each team will also be paired with a top "Call of Duty" streamer, including IcemanIsaac, Smixie, Natarsha, M3rkdbyaSkirt, CitizenSnipes, BennyCentral, Emzy, Jaff, TacticalBrit, Spratt and Braderz.

The real celebration, of course, is for the Call of Duty Endowment and its ongoing work as one of the largest philanthropic funders of veteran employment. Since 2009, the endowment has helped place military veterans into more than 118,000 high-quality jobs, jobs that allow vets to pursue their potential and lead fulfilling post-military lives.

When the endowment was founded, the veteran unemployment rate was a staggering 15.7%. As of 2022, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the rate had plummeted to 2.8%. While that's certainly a victory for the endowment and the organizations it funds and supports, there are still pressing veteran employment issues.

Chief among these issues is underemployment, situations where veterans take positions beneath their skills or experience or jobs that don't pay enough. Both of these situations can be catastrophic for their mental health, so much so the Call of Duty Endowment openly calls the federal government's veteran unemployment stats "misleading."

Read: Federal Veteran Unemployment Stats 'Inaccurate,' New Report Says

Events like the C.O.D.E. Bowl not only bring attention to the mission of the Call of Duty Endowment, but also lead to high-profile donations that allow the endowment to continue identifying and funding organizations dedicated to finding meaningful, sustainable employment for veterans. This year, Monster Energy will donate $500,000 to the cause by sponsoring the bowl's first-ever MVP trophy.

Tack on the $42 million raised by Activision Blizzard for the endowment's mission, and the result is veterans making a median salary of $71,000 per year and $6.9 billion in economic value for U.S. and UK veterans. Even those who somehow still question how video games can make a difference in people's lives must admit that's a real-world force multiplier.

Viewers who tune into C.O.D.E. Bowl IV will receive a 30-minute Battle Pass Double XP token courtesy of USAA, along with other in-game rewards. Activision Blizzard has also teased some other "super secret" in-game announcements during the broadcast.

The tournament begins at 4 p.m. Eastern time and 1 p.m. Pacific time on Thursday, Oct. 5, 2023, on the Call of Duty YouTube, Twitch, Steam and Facebook channels.

"Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III" will be released on Nov. 10, 2023, but is available for preorder now.

-- Blake Stilwell can be reached at blake.stilwell@military.com. He can also be found on Facebook, X or on LinkedIn.

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