“When I was in Iraq, our infantry company received a crate full of third hand romance novels from a library. We used them for target practice on the confiscated arms range, but it was there I realized: people wanted to help veterans, but they just didn’t know what we wanted.”
Captain Stephen Machuga, US Army (ret)
Founder and CEO, Stack-Up.org
My name is Captain Stephen Machuga, and video gaming saved my life.
From the time I could walk, I’ve had various video game controllers in my hands at all times. So it should come as no surprise that video gaming helped acclimatize me back into normal life when I redeployed from a 13-month tour in Iraq.
My particular problem was trash pickup day. In Iraq, insurgents hid explosive devices in piles of trash littering the sides of every road in the country, so every time we would drive by one, you would just wait for it to blow up in your face. Fast forward to coming back home, and imagine driving to the mall on trash day, where there were piles of trash all over the place around my house. Sure I was safely back home, but the subconscious search for wires coming out of garbage piles made it extremely difficult to leave my house.
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.
It was that support I wanted to share with my brothers and sisters in arms. So in 2010, when my driver from Iraq re-enlisted and was immediately shipped to Afghanistan, he reached out to me for help. He knew I had fostered some contacts in the games industry, and asked if I could reach out to some of them to see if they could get his unit some games and a video game console. The response from the games industry was surprising, and I received an amazing bounty of donated games and gear. Upon receiving it in Afghanistan, the word got out that this crazy ex-Army captain was sending out thousands of dollars worth of games and gear to units that sent him an email.
And here we are now, standing tall, proud of our gaming heritage with the launch of Stack-Up.org.