At its 2023 state convention, The American Legion Department of California established a department Gaming Committee to, in part, help promote camaraderie, improve mental health and aid recruiting efforts.
Immediate Past Department of California Commander Jere Romano, now the adjutant at Post 46 in Culver City, has taken that mission to heart. And with an assist from the non-profit Stack Up, he hopes to now create an esports league among fellow American Legion posts and other veteran service organizations.
Post 46 recently was the recipient of four gaming PCs through Stack Up, which was gifted with 150 gaming PCs from game developer/publisher and esports organizer Riot Games earlier this year to distribute.
Romano didn’t hesitate to accept the PCs, noting that Stack Up founder/CEO Steve Machuga shared with him that after serving in Iraq in the U.S. Army’s 2nd Infantry, he found when he came home that it was the gaming community that “kept him going,” Romano said. “Coming out of the pandemic, a lot of the younger veterans were struggling with isolation and all that. What better way to address that and be that … suicide intervention. If we can create that gaming community within our posts, not only is it going to attract members to our posts, but it’s also going to possibly stop one veteran from taking their life.”
Machuga, a member of American Legion Post 283 in Pacific Palisades, Calif., said Stack Up has been donating PCs to Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts with the hopes of creating “a sibling rivalry. And Jere is one of those guys that when he says he’s going to do something, he does it. If I’m handing these machines to anyone, he’s definitely somebody who I can rely on to make it happen.”
Romano, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps and the Marine Corps Reserve from 1986 to 1996, said seeing The American Legion become involved in the gaming community through its relationship with REGIMENT Gaming and its past work with Stack Up “is incredible. I’ve been tracking it, especially since REGIMENT Gaming came on board. We had to evolve as an organization with our newer membership coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan. This is our … that one bridge, that one connectivity that we have to not only introduce them to The American Legion, but also bring them into our extended family.”
Both Machuga and Romano would like to see American Legion posts with gaming equipment join together to form an esports league that could possibly also include VFW posts and other VSOs.
“I believe in that vision,” Romano said. “We talk about just simple competitiveness between posts, and that’s where the conversation started. It’s just something to bring the posts together. This is that new evolution of bringing everybody together. And simple competitiveness I think, will actually start bringing more and more cooperation between posts, and then areas and hopefully departments.”