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pax east 2016 air assault justin tisdale

CPL Justin Tisdale is retired USMC and a 100% disabled veteran. He was also one of two Air Assaults who joined Stack-Up at PAX East 2016 this past April. The Air Assaults program is where Stack-Up hand-picks deserving veterans and pays for them to attend life-changing video game and geek culture events, whether it be a Comic-Con, an Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), a Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) or even a game developer studio tour. With the help of our local Stacks providing support, we make sure those veterans have a weekend that they will never forget!

Justin works tirelessly in the online space through Twitch streams and chat rooms to reach out to fellow veterans and provide any support they may need. He also takes his outreach offline and into his own community and it is this determined drive and continued sacrifice in the name of helping those around him that made Justin an easy choice for our Air Assault program.

After the hustle and bustle of PAX East was over and everyone was settled back home Justin had a chance to write down his thoughts about his Air Assault experience so we could share it with all of you!

For a lot of veterans staying out of the limelight and staying in our safe comfortable bubble is key to our survival and sanity. More times then we would like to admit we find our-self wanting more and hoping to break a cycle of seclusion and depression.

Whether it be PTSD, Intrusive thoughts or just the general disdain for civilian life, a lot of us feel the same way…Screw it. I felt this way for many months after retiring from the USMC, everyday is a battle to overcome it.

Up until Pax East, I stayed secluded working to help other people, Veterans specifically. I’d rather take 10 hrs a day helping a brother or sister in their situation then take 1 hr to help or do something for myself. I enjoy helping people and enjoy knowing I helped changed someone’s life for the better. Helping fellow veterans get out of homelessness, get benefits they deserve or just being an ear to listen to what was going on. Little did I know I was keeping my cycle going and trapping myself in it.

This cycle of seclusion, self-doubt, depression and just non-desire to be of the civilian world. I was afraid to laugh, afraid to cry and most of all afraid of what I was becoming. I was slowly becoming the person I said I would never become, losing my humor, my wife and will to make my life better.

Regardless of the things that happened to me in my military career or life, I’ve always maintained a positive outlook…until I left the USMC. It was like I lost something, I couldn’t place it or pinpoint exactly what it was.

Well, until I met everyone from Stack-up.org.

I realized I lost that feeling of purpose and brotherhood, being able to count on the person to my left and my right. When I was approached to do an air assault by Stephen and Kevin, my initial thought was “no no let someone else go”.

For so long I have done things for other people and not myself, I forgot it was ok to do something I wanted to do. I dodged and ducked messages and even waited to respond to emails, hoping maybe someone more deserving would pop up and go in my place.

Next thing I know there is an email confirmation in my inbox of tickets for Pax East. I used gaming to escape my situation in life and “run” from some of the feelings or thoughts. Now I am about to go to the largest convention for video gaming??

Instant anxiety setting in, I got a hold of Stephen and Kevin to express my concern and thoughts for someone else going. “You help our brothers and sisters, now we are wanting to help you”, I will never forget Stephen saying that to me on that phone call. Throughout the whole pre-trip and during the trip Stephen, Kevin and the volunteers of stack-up made me feel that little piece of brotherhood I had been missing.

Pax East went off without a hitch, I met and networked with so many different people, laughed and enjoyed every conversation I had. Meeting and getting to talk to the people that made games I played to escape and feel safe. It was amazing getting to play some of the games coming out and meeting the developers.

The whole trip was a dream come true for me also, being a Red Sox fan. Being in Boston was great and something clicked for me during and after the trip. Along the military journey sometimes you lose friends, family and that person you were before it all started, everyday is a struggle to regain little pieces you lost.

For me it was the person before, my happiness and desire make sure I live my life helping anyone I can. This Air Assault not only allowed me to connect with other people suffering the same way, it gave me hope. Just knowing someone has got my 6 no matter what. I appreciate all that stack-up.org has done and can only hope the other Air Assaults experience is the same as mine.

Thank you Justin, for spending time with the Stack-Up family!

Thank you for your continued service in helping your fellow veterans as you navigate civilian life. Thank you for sharing your story and the challenges you have faced. It was a pleasure and an honor to have you attend PAX East 2016 with us and we are delighted you had such an amazing time.

To see a bit of Justin’s experience at PAX East give the video below a watch. It is from our time on the main stage with the folks from Twitch.


If you would like to learn more about our Air Assault program or wish to nominate a veteran you think would like to Stack Up with us please visit this LINK.

#PaX #stackup #AirAssaults #PAXEast #Twitch #PAXEast2016

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Founded in 2015, Stack Up (TAX ID: 47-5424265) brings both veterans and civilian supporters together through a shared love of video gaming through our primary programs: The Stacks, Supply Crates, Air Assaults, and the Stack Up Overwatch Program [StOP].

Stack Up helps US and Allied military service members get through deployments to combat zones and recover from traumatic physical and emotional injuries with the power of video gaming.