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Gaming to make a difference - 8 Bit Salute

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I’m excited to hell and back about this year… and scared to death. It’s a make or break year."
- Stephen “Shanghai Six” Machuga

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Stephen Machuga is the man behind Operation Supply Drop, a charity that helps make a difference in the lives of soldiers overseas and at home. He does it in a way you probably wouldn't expect, a passion of his, video games. Having spent time in combat zones himself, he understands the psychological toll it has on a person and how something as simple as a video game can make a difference.

No one wants to be in a country where the entire population wants to murder you. It's understandable. You need things to take your mind off where you're at, and there are only so many times you can swing by the chow hall or the gym before you're coming up with other ways to keep yourself busy. Next thing you know, Private Snuffy is out with a bunch of his buds testing to see whether or not his combat knife can cut through a SAPI plate in a ballistic vest. While wearing it.The idea is that guys downrange get a taste of home; now a days, video games are a part of our culture. In a world where Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty sell a billion dollars on launch day, it is everywhere, and the 18-30 year old soldier demographic, almost all of them are gamers of some level or another. So instead of the usual box of Girl Scout cookies and wetwipes that guys get in the mail, we send that unit something they really want. Our 'supply drops' are absolute luxury items for those guys and gals deployed forward, and they deserve it.'

Life after Conflict

The charity has taken a special interest in the troops returning home and adjusting to life after their deployment.

The closer to the fight these guys and gals get, the more likely they are to start suffering some serious side effects like combat tremors or PTSD. Researchers are corroborating that trauma sufferers have a significantly reduced number of flashbacks while focusing on a ‘highly engaging visual-spatial task’ (i.e. video games). At a time where one soldier a day is committing suicide and the number of suicides is outweighing the number of combat casualties, when we hand it all back over to the Afghanis and call it a day, there will be tens of thousands of troops back in the states who still need our help: Which is why we're transitioning away from focusing on combat operations and working with troops more in the states in recovery centers like Walter Reed, etc.'

A recent Forbes article highlighted the effects of PTSD and what Operation Supply drop is doing to help. Video games may seem trivial in the midst of what these people are going through but sometimes simply being able to return to something that feels normal can be the first step to recovery.

How you can Help

This May, Operation Supply Drop is hosting their third annual 8 Bit Salute, a 24 hour gaming marathon that everyone is free to participate and help raise funds and awareness to the cause. It’s as simple as grabbing a couple friends, turning on your webcam and playing your favorite games together. For details you can visit their website and see some of the good they are helping bring to people’s lives.

Everything to do with the military is sure to have a stigma but their only goal is to help human beings in need and all funds raised go toward that end. That’s a cause everyone should feel good about helping.

You can follow Jordan on Twitter @JordanMBrill or keep up to date with his articles by subscribing above.

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