A new military charity has launched that supports active troops and veterans alike through video games. Based out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Stack-Up.Org was founded by US Army Captain Stephen “Shanghai Six” Machuga out of his own experiences with the healing power of video games. During his deployment in Iraq, Machuga carried with him a Game Boy Advance loaded with games like Final Fantasy.
And according to Machuga, it was video games that helped him adapt when he returned from his deployment, "Videogames saved my life, and helped me transition when I came back home from my deployment overseas. With Stack-Up, I hope to bring what helped me personally to others in similar positions. Hence our promise – 'Veterans are our mission. Gaming is our passion.'"
Machuga specifically remembers how playing hours and hours of one game in particular helped with his anxiety, "Fortunately for me, a little game called World Of Warcraft came out a few weeks after I got home from Iraq. I remember standing at the front door to a Walmart near Fort Lewis at 6 AM, waiting for the doors to open so I could get my hands on a copy. I played that game like some people breathe in oxygen, and for the next month or so, it completely dominated my waking hours. When I was forced to leave my house, I would be in such a hurry to get back to the game, that over time, gaming took my mind off the anxiety that living in a combat zone for a year built up."
For Stack-Up's Chief Operating Officer, Nate Serefine, video games helped him cope with a crippling depression, anxiety and PTSD, "To me, a game console wasn’t a piece of entertainment technology. No, a console was a gateway to worlds that followed the rules of their creators and things made sense. I didn’t know why I was depressed and on the verge of suicide, but I did know that Lara Croft could climb certain walls in Tomb Raider. I wasn’t sure how my life had gotten to such a low point, but I was sure that I could pass a certain part in Halo 4 if I could just get my grenade timing right. Some of the best memories of this time in my gaming life are attributed to playing four-player co-op sessions of Borderlands 2. My friends from back in Michigan would all get up early on their Sunday mornings so we could play together. Somehow, the 2,000 miles between us melted away as we blasted our way through Pandora on the hunt for Handsome Jack."
Stack-Up.Org's goal is to help veterans and active military in three specific ways:
The Supply Crate program sends boxes filled with thousands of dollars worth of gaming gear to units deployed in combat zones or military hospitals.
The Air Assault program flies deserving combat or serviced disabled veterans to amazing gaming opportunities such as studio tours or gaming conventions.
The Stacks program is a local initiative where both veteran and civilian gamers can come together to do a variety of fun activities, as well as do volunteer work supporting veterans throughout their community.
With the launch of Stack-Up.Org is their first campaign, No More Socks. According to Stack-Up, the name comes from the mind-boggling amount of socks and foot powder soldiers receive from family and other charitable organizations. And when people would ask what they could send Machuga while he was deployed, he would simply respond, "Just no more socks!"
The No More Socks fundraiser will create Stack-Up Supply Crates stocked with the latest and greatest of video games and consoles for active servicemen and women as well as veterans recovering in facilities at home.