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The surprising way video games are helping our veterans

The surprising way video games are helping our veterans
photo courtesy of stack-up.org

After being deployed for months, years, maybe more, it takes most veterans time to transition back into civilian life. That was the case for Army veteran Stephen Machuga. After spending 13 months deployed in Iraq, he found himself hating Tuesdays, aka trash 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."

So every Tuesday, his mind would race, but he found relief in playing video games, more specifically, World of Warcraft. In fact, he notes, "video gaming saved my life."

"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."

Realizing that he wasn't alone, Machuga founded Stack-Up.org, an organization to help vets connect with other vets and fellow video gamers. By doing so, vets can get help conquering depression and deal with other roadblocks preventing them from integrating back into civilian life.

"Gaming offers a unique opportunity to relieve the stresses, tensions, and social challenges of being separated from your friends and family while on deployment," Dean Hall, a game developer and military veteran, told CNBC.

All thanks to video games and an Xbox that his mother sent him, Stack-Up.com co-founder Nate Serefine has a similar story.

"Had I not crawled out of my depressive haze, I would have never been in the position I am in today. Now, I’m able to truly help veterans that are in the same dark place I once was. Gaming has given me this power and I aim to do everything possible to help others in the same way they helped me."

Machuga also founded a program called Operation Supply Drop to help those still deployed by sending them video games and "video game-themed goods" and "nerd goodness" instead of romance novels.

Now, Machuga has gained popularity, and even more exciting, some big time players, including Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey and DayZ creator Dean Hall have joined the organization's advisory board.

This means more types of tech can be sent out to help vets, such as the VR goggles that were sent out to vets to take a virtual tour of war memorials across the country, thanks to a program called "Honor Everywhere 360."

For more information on how to help our veterans, see Komando.com for resources that can help in a number of different areas, from military discounts to where to replace a lost or damaged medal.

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Source: CNBC
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