American Legion Department of West Virginia Commander Tom Hicks was familiar with video games like Call of Duty because his grandson played them as a child and still plays them as an adult.
But Hicks’ knowledge of video gaming didn’t extend much beyond that. But during The American Legion National Convention in Milwaukee, Hicks was reminded by Department of West Virginia Executive Assistant Lois Moles that a $3,000 gaming PC was going to be given away through a drawing. Hicks entered, and then found out he won.
And now he knows a little bit more about gaming, and how it can impact the veterans participating in it.
On Sept. 14 at American Legion Post 3 in Moundsville, W.Va. – where Hicks also is commander – he was presented the PC by representatives of Regiment Gaming and Paradox Customs. Those two entities paired to team up to man a four-PC gaming station set up in the Wisconsin Center during the national convention. In addition to giving those non-gamers in the Legion Family an opportunity to learn more about gaming while interacting with Earl and the other younger veterans with Regiment, it also gave a Legion Family member the opportunity to win their own gaming PC.
And that member was Hicks, who sees the PC as an opportunity to grow his post. “I haven’t talked with the (post executive board) yet, but I want to do something to get some people interested in coming, especially the younger veterans,” he said. “Maybe this will spark interest.”
Brandon Hatfield, who is the co-owner and president of Regiment Gaming – the largest veteran gaming community in the nation – came to Post 3 with Paradox owner/founder Arpit Manaktala to present the PC to Hicks.
It was an opportunity for Hatfield to interact with Legionnaires as the nation’s largest veterans organization continues to grow its relationship with Regiment.
“It’s really humbling,” Hatfield said. “This is a great American Legion (post), and it’s great to meet people firsthand. It brings our mission to life. We want to help veterans, and we know that The American Legion is a great organization for that. And I think working together, we can really help (the Legion) reach a different audience.
“With Regiment I’ve learned that gaming is not just for the young crowd. It’s for everyone. We have people that are 60-plus in Regiment, and they game all the time. Everyone can connect. It doesn’t matter the age. I think if we can work with The American Legion, you’ll find that more and more people can connect through the different age gaps.”
In talking with Hatfield, Hicks said he learned how gaming brings veterans back into a sense of community that they felt during their military service. “But they also said that playing that game takes them away from their thoughts of what they actually saw overseas,” Hicks said. “They say that’s what a lot of veterans say about gaming.”
Hicks praised Hatfield, Arpit and the others who helped set up the PC at Post 3. “Those guys were A-1. Wonderful gentlemen and really nice guys,” he said. “They were very, very helpful, all of them.”
Hatfield said the relationship with The American Legion is mutually beneficial. “Our goal is to make the Legion more effective in ways that we can help,” he said. “This is really a natural fit, because the in-person community is something we lack, whereas the online gaming community is where our strength is. We can utilize each other’s strengths and help each other’s weaknesses.”