It's more than just Call of Duty. This military gaming charity brings veterans closer together

Kaylah Jackson
February 05, 2019 - 4:34 pm

(Photo courtesy of Stack Up)

While on deployment most of your time is spent on missions outside the wire or twiddling your thumbs, reading books and…playing video games.

Well, Stack Up is a nonprofit military gaming organization that has tapped into reliving those memories.

Stack Up, a play on the concept of a military stack up, was built on the idea that gaming is both a way to pass the time but also a life-saver for many in the military community.

(Photo courtesy of Stack Up)

Dave Crouse, Marine veteran and Director of Veteran Services for the organization, found this community when he started volunteering his time with the organization in 2015.

“I felt a whole lot better about my future when I was giving back to other people…I knew who Dave Crouse the Marine was and I knew who Dave Crouse the EOD technician was but I was having a hard time figuring out who Dave Crouse the man was,” he said.

Crouse lost his left hand and left eye while serving in Cambodia. He spent much of his downtime during his recovery at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD working on gaming controller modifications.

Stack Up currently has five core programs: Supply Crates, PC “Vetrofit” Crates, Air Assault Trips, The Stacks and StOP Initiative.

(Photo courtesy of Stack Up)

“A lot of us brought video game consoles with us…a deployment is 10 percent what you see in movies and 90 percent ‘hurry up and wait,’” said Crouse.

Supply Crates are often sent to deployed units and include everything for a good game night including a console, games, headsets, and controllers.

Stack Up also provides personal computers retrofitted for veterans and sponsors trips to events around the country.

"We can bring disabled or deserving veterans on once-in-a-lifetime trips out to gaming conventions...we have wonderful video game industry partners...to provide a wondering red carpet like experience," said Crouse."I look at the Air Assualt program like the fast pass at Disney."

From putting consoles and games in the hands of veterans and service members to putting veterans face-to-face with their favorite developers, Stack Up has built a grassroots community through local support.

Crouse credits the organization's success in large part to the local hotspots of veteran gamers and civilian supporters, called, appropriately, "Stacks."

"For me, when it's two o' clock in the morning and you're lying awake at night kind of reassessing every situation that you made in your life... maybe that's tied to a specific incident as mine was," said Crouse. "There are a lot of amazing organizations out there. There are not a whole lot of those organizations that can reach you at two in the morning so for me video games--that's what I leaned into."

(Photo courtesy of Stack Up)

Crouse says gaming has become an "organic" way to reach veterans who may need help.

"Let's say I've got a guy in the community who's struggling a little bit, maybe we know he is, maybe we don't..let's say we're playing games together and were just chit-chatting. It's interesting to see people open up when you're kind distracted by this game that you're playing," said Crouse.

Whether it's joining Crouse and other military members in playing Earthbound or Destiny or just heading to the latest convention, at its core Stack Up is about recovery through the power of gaming.

For more information about a local Stack in your area, visit the organization website

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