VFW Post 8541, founded in 1899 after the Spanish-American War, is moving into the 21st century. Looking to attract younger veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the post, located at 2222 Austin Hwy in San Antonio, TX, has designed a gaming hall for young vets dealing with post-traumatic stress and substance abuse disorders.
With gaming becoming increasingly popular and professional gamers making some serious bank, it’s no surprise that the VFW post decided it was time for an upgrade. In addition, video games have been shown to help vets cope with mental health issues, such as PTSD, anxiety, and depression by providing an escape and allowing the mind to focus.
According to a study from US Department of Veteran Affairs, “Gameplay may promote a mindfulness-like psychological [escape] but can also provide users with benefits of confidence, social connection, personal growth, and opportunities for employment or even leadership.”
We are at the finish line. This will be big for our vets and their families.
The gaming hall is the brainchild of VFW Post 8541 Commander Bill Smith, a veteran who served in the Army for 32 years. While in Afghanistan, he saw that troops would often game during their downtime, which allowed them to decompress from combat.
A friend of his son, Sam Elizondo, who owns a cybercafe, helped him develop the idea. After getting the blessing of the older vets, the two men got to work in January. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has somewhat hindered their plans, the gaming hall is set to open once the lockdown in Texas is over and the state reopens.
The gaming hall will have roughly 70 games provided by Elizondo’s company for 12 PC consoles as well as 6 Xboxes. In addition, Grande Communications will install fiber optic cable to afford the Post with the best download speed. Microsoft also contributed after shutting down their brick and mortar store by donating $25 thousand in hardware.
Smith and Elizondo hope to plan veteran esports competitions to attract serious players, as well as to develop camaraderie among the young vets. They also want to inspire other VFW posts to follow their example by offering gaming opportunities to soldiers returning from abroad.
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