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PC Vetrofit Crate – James

Today's PC Vetrofit Crate update came with a hefty message from the recipient and as such, we'll let you read what James decided to share with us and keep our parts brief. Please read as he's had quite the life:

My name is James and I currently live in Virginia with my wife and four children. I grew up in a military family with both of my parents having served in the United States Army. This type of childhood involved moving every few years when my father had a change of duty station. It was difficult to make lasting friends, but I had a brother (18 months older than me) who made things much easier as I always had a friend. We played games a lot as kids because it was something that we could take with us each time we moved, and it allowed us to keep in touch with others through the common interest of gaming. Starting in middle school, my brother and I attended a private military boarding school. We both had different career aspirations (he wanted to be a cop and I wanted to work with animals) but that all changed with the events of September 11, 2001. I remember being in school when we were rushed to the library to watch the live news broadcasts of what was unfolding around the country. Coming from a long line of veterans, I knew then that I had to go in. I talked to my brother and we decided to enlist into the military together. I took classes over the summer so that I could graduate a year early. In 2004, shortly after turning 17, I enlisted in the Army National Guard. My brother and I both enlisted as infantrymen and completed our training at Ft. Benning, GA. We deployed to Kosovo in and then to Iraq. I felt that I still had more to give, so I transferred to an active duty unit and ended up in Ft. Drum, NY. I then deployed with 10th Mtn to Afghanistan. Afghanistan was the most difficult deployment for me as it was the most violent and I lost several friends to the fighting there.

My best friend, Derek McConnell stepped on an IED shortly after we arrived. The blast took both of his legs and a portion of his arm. He also suffered a fractured jaw, skull, and collarbone. Derek was a fighter and he survived, making it back to Walter Reed. He was on a path to being one of those people you see on TED talks and on YouTube, defying the odds and inspiring others to accomplish incredible things despite their circumstances and perceived limitations. I received a phone call the day after my birthday in 2013 that Derek had died in his sleep. Derek was 23.
Another amazing person I had the opportunity to know was LT Timothy Steele. Timothy came to us while we were deployed. He came straight from West Point. I remember talking to him after he arrived. It was a brief conversation, but it was long enough for him to tell me about his 1yo daughter and him being from Pennsylvania. Not long thereafter, he died as the result of a blast from an IED. He was 25. There are many others like these two who I have had the honor and privilege of serving alongside. They are heroes, and not because of how they died but because of how they lived. They are my friends, and I am honored to count myself among those who knew them. There are several others, friends of mine, who took their lives after returning from combat.

All of these things are difficult to live with. This is especially true in light of the recent events unfolding in Afghanistan. I left the army after being medically retired in 2013 with a 90% disability rating for approximately five separate conditions. I have had my own struggles since that time, and the healing is still very much a work in progress. After a brief pursuit of a career in elementary education, I found familiarity and camaraderie in the field of law enforcement. I joined a local police department in 2017 and worked there for the past four years. I absolutely loved the team environment and the brotherhood with the men and women who I served alongside. My favorite thing about this life is people. I love people, and policing gave me the opportunity to work and serve alongside of some of the best and bravest people while also helping and serving people in my own community. I recently left the police department in order to move my wife and kids closer to our families for the support, but I am in the process of transferring to another police department.

Gaming has been a way for me to decompress and keep in touch with friends (police, military and others) as well as my brother. It has also given me an outlet that keeps me from falling into all of the unhealthy coping mechanisms. I was recently involved to some degree with a non-profit veterans farm in Virginia. The guy who runs that program had several computers set up as a way for veterans to get together to play games (mostly military simulators) together. Gaming with him allowed both of us an opportunity to talk, process, and unwind. My brother and I also still keep in touch regularly through gaming.

One of the reasons I am reaching out to you is that I do not currently have a PC. I use a laptop for gaming, but lately I am realizing that it is simply unable to keep up with modern games as I experience regular difficulties trying to run the games that my brother, and military and police friends run. I do the best I can to make it work, because keeping in touch is important to me, but it is often frustrating when the laptop crashes repeatedly. For me, a computer would mean allowing me to keep maintain those connections and interactions (especially after having just moved to a new area where I have not yet established a support group). It would also allow me the opportunity to decompress in a healthy way. Regardless of your decision on my application, I want to say that I greatly appreciate what you do as I know many brothers and sisters, both in law enforcement and the military, who use games as a way to keep in touch and unwind. As people always say “thank you for your service,” I want to say thank you for your support! - James

We want to thank James for everything he shared with us. We mourn the losses of the troops he served with. Nothing can replace them.

One of the things James mentioned is how gaming can bring us back together with old friends. For us, that's the most important thing because, as we all know as Veterans, that camaraderie we had in the Military is just so hard to reproduce once out. If we can help people feel that again, we are happy to.

We sent James a PC Vetrofit Crate, and he sent us the following message:

The packages came in yesterday. You guys are awesome, I am so thankful for all of this. It really is so much more above and beyond what I had hoped. My brother helped me get things set up, so that was also really cool.
I sent pictures to a few of my friends already and they were equally blown away by the quality of the things you guys sent. Several of the guys I deployed with from 10th MTN, and many of the ones I worked as a police officer with, have been asking me for ages to get a gaming computer so that we could keep in touch and game together. I know I told you I recently went to the Boulder Crest PTG (Post-traumatic growth) program for veterans/first responders. The part in Bluemont, VA was only a week but the program actually runs for 18 months. We have weekly meetings through zoom. I didn't have a webcam though actually, so I was trying to do things through my phone, but that was hit or miss. So really, all of this stuff helps even beyond gaming. With the webcam/pc/monitor I can now run the meetings on a real screen, so that's super exciting.

I want you guys to know how much this really means. This allows me to reconnect with so many of my brothers who I haven't seen since Afghanistan. Life gets busy and it's not always possible to stay in touch as much as we'd like, and so many of the guys use gaming as an outlet. It's awesome to be able to be a part of that with them now. Even with my own brother who was in Iraq with me. He was so excited to help me set everything up last night and he's already talking to me about some of the gaming groups he's in and wanting to get me involved. From the PC and monitor, to all of the peripherals and the origin/steam cards, and even the card game, this stuff is all amazing man.

I don't know if I told you this, but a few weeks back I got some blood work back from the VA because they had been testing me for anemia and some other things. Anyway, they think I might have colon cancer, so I've been inundated with tests, blood work, and so on. I have a procedure scheduled in the early part of January. Some things in my personal life have also become very difficult lately, and it only makes it harder with the holidays being here. So this is a huge thing for me. It's the gear, because it's obviously awesome. But it's also the thought, the generosity, and even the community. It's cool man. Even the sponsor sign, my brother is subscribed to Karmakut. When you see so much ugliness in the world, it's things like all of this that restore some of that faith in humanity.
You guys are awesome, the donors are awesome, and I am so grateful. Thank you so much.

We're glad we could give something nice to James during a difficult time. Sometimes it's something small or something people don't even think of as important that can make the difference, and we're happy to contribute.

Karmakut has sponsored quite a few Supply Crates and PC Vetrofit Crates. We're quite proud to have worked with him to ensure our Veterans receive our gaming care packages.

Normally people tell you not to hit the big red button, but we really want you to hit it to find out how you can help Stack Up help Veterans through gaming!

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