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Check Out Stephen Machuga’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Stephen Machuga.

Hi Stephen, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
I’m a graduate of Purdue University’s ROTC program, went into the Army back in 1998 as an infantry 2nd lieutenant stationed to Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Two tours overseas, one as the liaison to the Russian military in Kosovo and the other was 13 months in Iraq at the start of Iraqi Freedom 2 with 2nd Infantry Division. While I was deployed, our infantry company was sent a crate of well-used harlequin romance novels, donated from a library. It was my first experience with the idea that while America enjoys talking about supporting the troops with their yellow ribbon stickers and flag-waving bravado, it’s generally a bunch of hot air. That was where the idea for my military charity Stack Up was planted.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I founded Stack Up, a military charity that focuses on supporting US and Allied veterans through gaming and geek culture (Dungeons and Dragons, comic books, Marvel movies, etc).

We started off Veterans Day in 2015 simply sending Xboxes to guys deployed forward to Afghanistan and Iraq. Over the years, we have expanded our outreach to include a 24-hour suicide prevention team online for veterans to talk with trained volunteers, free of charge, called Overwatch. (discord.gg/StackUpDotOrg)

Over the last seven years, we’ve supported over 44,000 veterans and had our first million-dollar year in cash donations in 2021, managing to not only survive COVID but thrive.

What sort of changes are you expecting over the next 5-10 years?
We just opened up our veteran community center in Van Nuys, called Phalanx House. Think of it like a giant “mancave” or adult tree fort: 5v5 LAN center with brand new gaming rigs, home theater, podcast and streaming studio, D&D and board gaming annex, pool and jacuzzi…it’s pretty fantastic. We’re working with Veterans Peer Access Network here in Los Angeles to identify Los Angeles veterans who are interested in coming and checking out the fun, hanging with other veterans and interacting with the community. It’s a literal gamechanger for our charity org and I can not wait until we’re speeding right along a few months from now. The goal is to start opening these type of community centers around the county to update the whole “American Legion/VFW” smokey bar concept for post-Vietnam veterans and get veteran community centers into the 21st century serving post 9-11 veterans.

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