Indiana Legion bringing in younger members while investing in gaming program
Photo by Hilary Ott/The American Legion

Indiana Legion bringing in younger members while investing in gaming program

On July 1, it was announced that The American Legion became the official veteran service organization of REGIMENT Gaming, the nation’s largest veteran gaming community.

Just a few weeks earlier, Frank Huntzinger American Legion Post 45 in Noblesville, Ind., had moved into a new facility, In that new facility is a room designated as a computer lab. And now, four gaming PCs have been installed, thanks to the combined effort of the post, REGIMENT Gaming and Paradox Customs, which custom builds gaming systems.

Post 45 Commander John Morris said the decision to purchase the components for the gaming PCs – which were delivered to the post and then assembled there – is part of a bigger strategy to bring in younger members. “In our early stages of me serving as commander, I knew we needed to start addressing something with the younger vets,” Morris said. “We went no smoking. That helps. My son and my son-in-law game. My daughter (Post 45 Adjutant Taylor Munoz) is a (U.S. Navy) vet, and she doesn’t game as much as he does, but she still games. And I knew I wanted to put a computer lab in because once I’m not commander and I actually have some free time, I want to start opening it up to computer classes, skills development and stuff.

“Then I was talking to (6th District Commander Judy Pearson), and she mentioned REGIMENT Gaming and what they were about. So, I reached out to (REGIMENT founder Chris Earl) through social media, and a couple of days later we ended up talking on the phone for a while. We went over what we were thinking and what he was thinking. What other posts had done.”

Morris said Post 45 had finished its move to and renovation of the new facility under-budget, which allowed it to spend close to $20,000 on the PCs, along with desks and other accessories for the gaming stations.

Earl went over with Morris what a typical gaming station setup was like and settled on what Morris called “top-of-the-line CPUs and high-end microprocessors … and high-end gaming monitors.” The post also switched over to satellite so its internet would be used mostly for Wi-Fi and to hardwire into the gaming stations “so there’d be no lag,” Morris said.

Post 45 became a sponsor of the Noblesville High School Esports program earlier this year and will invite the team to the post to check out the gaming stations.

“We’ve been kind of going outside the norm supporting this Esports team,” Morris said. “We sponsor the middle school robotics program. We do girls softball sponsorships. Kind of youth activities outside the norm. Kind of stirring a little buzz in the community with stuff like that.”

Morris said he’s shared into on the gaming stations and other projects the post has taken on using social media. “I got tremendous feedback instantly,” he said. “Thousands of people that are on that platform – ‘Hey, I live in Indiana. I’m going to have to make it by there. I never thought of going there, but you’re not that far away.’

“So, I think (gaming) is a major recruitment tool. The days that dad gets off work and goes and hangs out at a (veteran service organization facility) for four hours and then he goes home, those days are over. You better have a place for him or her, for their spouse and hopefully for their kids. You’d better have some other activities designed around the rest of the family. Or else … mom or dad aren’t going to have the opportunity to go there.”

Since July 1, Post 45 has picked up 20 new members, most of which Morris said are 40 years old or younger.

“I tell people when they say moving your post is a huge accomplishment that my biggest accomplishment is that four years ago when I became second vice, I was the youngest officer by a mile at 49 years old,” Morris said. “Now, at 53, I’m the oldest officer. That’s one of our biggest missions right now. If we don’t start getting younger people in, it’s going to be hard to sustain.”  

Earl said he’s glad to Post 45 and other Legionnaires look at bringing gaming into their posts. “I am extremely excited to see post commanders across the country expressing interest in gaming,” he said. “Video Games are much more than just twiddling your thumbs on a controller. It’s a bonding experience and allows you to connect with old battle buddies and meet new friends online”