At Stack Up, a nonprofit serving U.S. veterans throughout the nation and the world, enjoying games is a part of the agency’s mission. Founded in 2015 by Stephen “Shanghai Six” Machuga, a former Army Infantry/Military Intelligence Officer and Airborne Ranger, he served in Iraq with the 2nd Infantry Division for 13 months. What helped him get by means of that “seemingly endless” time was video games. 

After leaving the service in 2006, Machuga labored in Washington DC as a authorities counterterrorism analyst and additionally did charity on the weekends. That charity work is the place he discovered his calling: creating a company that helps US and Allied army members get by means of deployments to fight zones and recuperate from traumatic bodily and emotional accidents with the ability of video games. 

Since its founding in 2015, Director of Communications Brian Snyder,  the self-confessed “only civilian in the bunch,” says that the group has served roughly 33,000 former and present veterans with significant companies such because the Stack Up Overwatch Program (StOP) which supplies 24/7 peer-to-peer psychological well being assist; the Supply Crate program which sends video gaming consoles to deployed veterans; Air Assaults, that are all-expense paid journeys for veterans to attend gaming conventions; and the Stacks, comprised of native volunteers who use gaming and different actions to make significant connections to the veterans of their communities. 

An all-expense paid journey to gaming conventions appeared too good to be true to Lance “Opti_kun” Gillenwater, a former medical laboratory technician for the US Air Force. After a fellow veteran advisable Stack Up, Gillenwater reached out however was skeptical when he was knowledgeable he was to be picked up for an Air Assault journey. “I was very skeptical, but I wanted to be around video games,” Gillenwater advised Weedmaps News by way of e-mail. It turned out to not be too good to be true, however simply what he wanted. “I was so nervous and scared when I went to PAX EAST at the beginning of the year, but they were amazingly warm, understanding, and patient.” The journey, the place Gillenwater met a few of his idols within the gaming group, modified his life. He even grew to become an worker as influencer coordinator. “I honestly haven’t felt more useful and appreciated since my deployment.” 

It’s within the Air Assaults program that Stack Up and Weedmaps make an necessary connection. “We had a trip in 2017 to Seattle, and I had taken some veterans to a gaming convention called Pax Prime,” mentioned Snyder. “When we go to these events, it’s outside of [the veterans] comfort zones to be surrounded by so many people. The vets are worried about traveling with [cannabis], then worried if they would be able to use cannabis to take care of themselves while they’re away from home.” 

On that Seattle journey, Snyder acquired a telephone name from his veterans coordinator who mentioned that one of many veterans on the journey wanted to rapidly discover a dispensary. He instructed that the coordinator use the Weedmaps dispensary finder. “We use Weedmaps to say, ‘do you need a strain, do you need a cartridge, do you need CBD?’ And we go to Weedmaps wherever we are to find it.”

“Weedmaps is very useful when travelling,” Gillenwater wrote. “Especially for work when you need to get your cannabis outside of your usually prescribed route.” 

A 2014 study discovered that almost 1 in four lively obligation army personnel confirmed indicators of a psychological well being situation. Some psychological well being challenges that veterans typically face are PTSD, despair, and traumatic mind damage. Snyder mentioned that Stack Up works typically with veterans who’ve confronted these similar challenges, a few of whom have changed opioids with cannabis, and others who devour cannabis as a strategy to handle psychological well being and anxiousness. 

“When I first got to the Air Assault trip, [Brian] was very open and asked if anyone needed to make a THC run,” Gillenwater mentioned. “That was so generous and just blew my mind when I was there. Up to that point, I had not worked or been a part of something that was accepting of my new lifestyle.” 

Snyder thinks that cannabis and video gaming make for an intuitive pairing, “weed and video games make for a good evening. You say, ‘let’s go back to the airbnb, smoke a joint, and play some games!’”

On a extra critical word, he believes that gaming makes a excellent match for veterans due to the presence and consideration that video games demand, in addition to the escapism they supply. “I’ll never forget, I heard someone say, ‘when you have those quiet times, when you’re by yourself, they’re not quiet times for me,” he recounted. “That’s when my brain starts thinking about all those things that happened over there. But I’m playing the game. Engaged with fantasy, and I don’t have time for that other stuff. A game doesn’t move unless you do something. It requires that visceral connection from you to not think about this other stuff for a while.”

Gillenwater says he is been utilizing cannabis to assist his PTSD for years. “I use both video games as therapy and cannabis as medication, which I am legally prescribed through Florida,” Gillenwater wrote. “Cannabis alleviates these feelings and places me on a different thought pattern so I can enjoy what I am doing instead of being PTSD about it.”  

Stack Up is internet hosting a digital gala on November 14 to boost funds for his or her ongoing work. You can observe alongside dwell by connecting with the nonprofit and the veteran gaming group on their Twitch channel. 

Featured picture courtesy of Stack Up. 

To be taught extra about how Stack Up helps veterans, go to its web site at

Erin Hiatt got here to writing about cannabis, hemp, and psychedelics after a profession as an actor and dancer. Her work has appeared in Vice, Civilized, MERRY JANE, Hemp Connoisseur Magazine, Marijuana Goes Mainstream, Doubleblind, and others. 

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