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Revisiting the 1986 ALWS champions’ dominant title run

Since the American Legion World Series became an eight-team event in 1960, only 16 teams have gone unbeaten on their way to a title.

In 1986, Jensen Beach, Fla., did just that in addition to going unbeaten in the regional and state tournament competition that preceded that year’s ALWS in Rapid City, S.D.

Post 126 closed that championship season with 19 straight victories on a team that was coached by a former major leaguer, produced two future major leaguers and an eventual College World Series-winning head coach.

Jensen Beach head coach Bob Shaw was quick to recognize the team’s greatness.

“It’s an unbelievable thing,” Shaw told the Sun-Sentinel in September 1986 upon his team’s return to the Palm Beach International Airport after winning its title. “You have to consider this team lost only one game in postseason play. They won 20 out of 21 games. They got better and better. They outdid what I thought they could do.”

Eventual college and pro standout Joe Grahe was the team’s star, taking George Rulon American Legion Baseball Player of the Year honors after hitting .390 on the season with a 17-3 pitching record and 0.56 ERA.

Grahe had a 7-0 postseason pitching record, including 4-0 with one save and 52 strikeouts in 35 2-3 innings during regional and ALWS competition while hitting .436. He was 2-0 in the ALWS, striking out 18 in the 9-2 victory over New London, Conn., in the opener and striking out 13 in an 8-2 championship game victory over Las Vegas, Nev.

“I never thought something like this would happen,” Grahe told the Sun-Sentinel in September 1986. “I just kept working hard and pushing. My arm was getting tired in the World Series and I didn’t have my best stuff, but I mixed up my pitches well. I’m only going to have about 10 hours before I have to go to UM.”

At the University of Miami, Grahe helped the Hurricanes to College World Series appearances in 1988 and 1989 before spending seven years in the major leagues after being a second-round draft pick of the California (now Los Angeles) Angels in 1989.

Grahe went 22-30 with 45 saves and a 4.41 ERA in 187 appearances (39 starts) pitching for the Angels (1990-94), Colorado Rockies (1995) and Philadelphia Phillies (1999). In his Aug. 4, 1990, major league debut, he recorded his first strikeout against Oakland Athletics slugger Jose Canseco.

Another pitcher, Rusty Meacham, actually had a longer major league career than Grahe. Meacham, a 33rd-round draft pick of the Detroit Tigers in 1987, went 23-17 with nine saves and a 4.43 ERA in 281 appearances (nine starts) during eight seasons.

Meacham went 5-0 in the postseason, including throwing a five-hitter in a 6-0 win over El Segundo, Calif., in the ALWS.

“Bob told us before the season we had the potential to be national champions,” Meacham told the Sun-Sentinel in September 1986. “Nobody paid much attention then, but here we are world champions. It’s a great feeling.”

Shaw’s influence on that team can be felt today if you listen to current University of Florida head baseball Kevin O’Sullivan.

O’Sullivan became an All-ACC catcher at Virginia before starting a coaching career in 1992 at Florida Community College that also took him to Florida Atlantic, Virginia, the Minnesota Twins organization and Clemson before he became Florida’s head coach in 2008.

“That was my first experience in terms of someone guiding me in the right direction,” O’Sullivan told the Gainesville Sun in February 2008. “He’s still someone I lean on today.”

At the time, O’Sullivan frequently took meticulous notes on Shaw’s teaching methods and strategy.

“It was unusual because there aren’t that many true students of the game,” Shaw told the Gainesville Sun in February 2008. “He was very determined, serious and a hard-worker. A kind of a student of the game. He asked a ton of questions.”

Shaw, who died from liver cancer at 77 in 2010, had spent 11 years in the major leagues from 1957 to 1967.

A pitcher, Shaw went 108-98 with 32 saves and a 3.52 ERA in 430 appearances (223 starts) with the Detroit Tigers, Chicago White Sox, Kansas City Athletics, Milwaukee Braves, San Francisco Giants, New York Mets and Chicago Cubs.

He went 1-1 for the White Sox in the 1959 World Series, taking a 1-0 victory over future Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax in Game 5 of a series won four games to two by the Los Angeles Dodgers. He also was a 1962 National League All-Star.

After retiring from baseball, Shaw coached in the Dodgers organization and spent two seasons as a pitching coach with the Milwaukee Brewers before becoming a co-owner of Shaw Sowden Realty and Management Properties in Florida while also coaching the Post 126 baseball team.

In addition to Grahe and Meacham, three other Jensen Beach players played professionally after helping Post 126 to the ALWS title.

Jon Anderson, who hit .476 with three home runs and nine RBI to win 1986 Regional MVP honors, spent one year in the minors after playing two seasons each for Indian River Community College and Georgia Tech. He was twice drafted by the California Angels — in the 44th round in 1988 and in the 48th round in 1989.

Dan Furmanik, a fourth-round selection of the New York Mets, spent three seasons in the minors after playing at Palm Beach Community College.

And Brian Reimsnyder, a 47th-round selection of the New York Yankees, spent one year in the minors after playing at the University of Florida.

Jensen’s Beach’s 1986 tournament dominance began after a loss to Lake Worth, Fla., in the district tournament.

Post 126 would then beat Lake Worth twice to win the district, sweep Pompano, Fla., for the Southeastern Florida area title and take four straight victories to win the Florida state tournament.

Jensen Beach won the Southeastern Regional in Belton with wins over Dothan, Ala., Caldwell County, N.C., Guaynabo, P.R., Hartsville, S.C., and Caldwell County, N.C., again.

In Rapid City, Post 126 beat New London, Conn.; El Segundo, Calif.; Las Vegas; Maynard, Ohio; and Las Vegas againto become the third of five ALWS champions in Florida history; Hialeah (1978), West Tampa (1981), Miami (1994) and Sanford (1997) are the others.

The importance of the title wasn’t lost on Grahe when he talked to the Sun-Sentinel on the eve of his Miami debut in February 1987.

“The biggest thrill of my life so far was winning the American Legion tournament last year,” Grahe said. “I’ll never forget the American Legion tournament. It was the American Legion experience that got me where I am. And where I am now means a chance to go on to another league.”

 

December American Legion Magazine examines nation's patchwork approach to public health

Our patchwork public health system, a Legionnaire’s eyewitness account of the Pearl Harbor attack, the National Medal of Honor Museum and a recap of The American Legion’s inaugural INDYCAR racing season -- read these articles and more in the December 2021 American Legion Magazine digital edition. The clickable digi-mag is available through MyLegion.org.

• Throughout the pandemic, the unevenness of America’s public health system has been laid bare, with federal, state and local agencies not all pulling in the same direction, Alan Greenblatt writes. Add a lack of coordination, competing authorities and the rampant spread of misinformation, and our readiness for the next crisis is in question.

• In his firsthand account of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, American Legion Department of Hawaii Vice Commander A.A. Kempa describes the chaos, confusion and courage he witnessed in the days following Dec. 7, 1941. “Everybody wants to serve and help the other fellow -- help defend our land -- help to relieve the homeless and suffering -- sharing to the limit with the evacuees,” he wrote in the January 1942 National Legionnaire. “And I am sure our armed forces are ready for any eventuality.” 

• A historic first year with Chip Ganassi Racing gave The American Legion national media exposure, contributions and a massive platform to address one of its highest priorities: preventing veteran suicide. Follow the Legion-sponsored 48 car during the 2022 NTT INDYCAR season.

• In “America’s Next National Treasure,” retired Army Maj. Gen. Patrick Brady says the National Medal of Honor Museum -- set to break ground in early 2022 -- will inspire and educate youth on why America’s worth fighting for.

Members can click here to access the digital magazine.

To join The American Legion and enjoy monthly digital issues of The American Legion Magazine, visit legion.org/join.

Legion Baseball alumni on Hall of Fame ballot

Six former American Legion Baseball players are on the ballot for the 2022 Baseball Hall of Fame, with results in voting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America being announced Jan. 25. The Class of 2022 will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., on July 24.

Here’s a look at the American Legion Baseball alumni on the Hall of Fame ballot:

Barry Bonds (10th year on ballot)

The all-time home run leader is in his final year on the ballot. Barry Bonds, who played American Legion Baseball in San Mateo, Calif., hit 762 home runs in 22 seasons with the Pirates and Giants. Bonds is also the career leader in walks (2,558) and intentional walks (688). He’s also a seven-time National League MVP, 14-time All-Star, eight-time Gold Glove Award winner and 12-time Silver Slugger Award winner.

Roger Clemens (10th year on ballot)

After helping his Springs Wood High School American Legion Baseball team win the 1979 Ohio state title, Roger Clemens pitched 24 major-league seasons with the Red Sox, Blue Jays, Yankees and Astros. He won a record seven Cy Young Awards and was the 1986 American League MVP and an 11-time All-Star. Clemens is third all-time in strikeouts (4,672), seventh in starts (707) and ninth in wins (354). He is also in his final year on the BBWAA ballot.

Jeff Kent (9th year on ballot)

Jeff Kent played American Legion Baseball in Bellflower, Calif., before playing 17 seasons with the Blue Jays, Mets, Indians, Giants, Astros and Dodgers. The 2000 National League MVP had eight seasons with at least 20 home runs and 100 RBI, the most all-time by a second baseman. Kent was also a five-time All-Star and four-time Silver Slugger Award winner.

Scott Rolen (5th year on ballot)

An alumnus of the American Legion Baseball program in Jasper, Ind., Scott Rolen played 17 seasons with the Phillies, Cardinals, Blue Jays and Reds. The 1997 National League Rookie of the Year, Rolen was a seven-time All-Star, eight-time Gold Glove Award winner, and one-time Silver Slugger Award winner at third base.

Gary Sheffield (8th year on ballot)

After playing American Legion Baseball for Post 248 in Tampa, Fla., Gary Sheffield went on to play 22 seasons for the Brewers, Padres, Marlins, Dodgers, Braves, Yankees, Tigers and Mets. Sheffield was a nine-time All-Star and five-time Silver Slugger Award winner, and finished in the Top 10 of MVP voting six times.

Mark Teixeira (1st year on ballot)

Mark Teixeira played American Legion Baseball in Severna Park, Md.; his team reached the 1997 American Legion World Series in Rapid City, S.D. He would go on to play 14 seasons in the majors, with the Rangers, Braves, Angels and Yankees, with whom he won the World Series in 2009. Teixeira was a three-time All-Star, five-time Gold Glove Award winner, and three-time Silver Slugger Award winner at first base. He also led the league in total bases twice, games played twice, runs scored once, home runs once, RBI once and sacrifice flies once.

 

How are you assisting others during the holiday season?

Whether it be providing toys and other gifts, holiday parties or much-needed household essentials, American Legion Family members have stepped up to assist others during the holiday season. And those efforts already are under way this season.

In November and continuing an effort that began in 2018, American Legion Riders Chapter 57 in Lake City, Fla., conducted another large fundraiser for the Columbia and Suwannee County Toys for Tots. Previous efforts each raised around $10,000 in funds and toys, but this year’s brought in $13,000.

The fundraiser came at a critical time. The American Legion and the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation recently solidified a partnership to enhance their collaboration to collect new, unwrapped toys for distribution where needs are greatest this holiday season. The two entities have identified specific geographic areas where gaps occur in the service. American Legion posts in those communities will be alerted and provided information about how they can get involved in those areas, by visiting www.toysfortots.org/campaigns.

But Toys for Tots is just one way American Legion Family members assist others during the holiday season. In Albany, Ore., American Legion Post 10 has hosted an annual Christmas party and toy giveaway that in 2020 provided toys to 1,350 children ages 12 and under. The party itself had to be canceled last year because of the pandemic but is back on for noon on Dec. 18 – again with the toy giveaway.

Post 52 in La Crosse, Wis., has set up a Buddy Tree that will have the names of local veterans in need and is asking the community to donate items so those veterans will receive gifts during the holidays. Other posts are leading letter-writing campaigns to deployed servicemembers.

What is your post or American Legion Family doing to assist others through this holiday season, or teaming with Toys for Tots in some way? We want to know so we can share it in our national media channels. Email sbrooks@legion.org, and then remember to share your efforts at www.legiontown.org.

New member, now commander, aims for next-gen Legionnaires

Evin Planto’s journey from first-time member to commander of The American Legion’s second largest post took seven months. Urged by his Legionnaire wife Lynette – who he describes as “the social one” – the retired U.S. Army Reserve colonel joined Newport Harbor Post 291 in January 2021, his first time as a member of the organization. In March, he was nominated to run for post commander. Elected in May, he took office in July.

“I figured, what the heck?” he said. “I did 30 years in the Army, had battalion command, I was in the Pentagon, was on the Army staff, served in Iraq for a year … then I had a business for 15 years. So, I figured, I could probably do this.”

Now Planto’s mission is to apply decades of military and business leadership to advance the southern California post’s image and value, emphatically to interest younger veterans and those still in uniform.

“The average age here is 71,” Planto explains. “And we have a lot of people going to Post Everlasting – throughout the whole American Legion – and that’s a big issue.”

Planto’s experience so far has shown him that young veterans and active-duty personnel are open to American Legion involvement – if they know what it is. An outreach effort last summer to connect next-generation members in Orange County to Post 291 attracted nearly 100 new faces and their families for the post’s annual July 4 boat parade. “They really had a good time,” Planto says. “We took them out, and they loved it. The thing is, they didn’t know what The American Legion was.”

A proponent of the national “Access Granted” initiative that invited local posts onto military installations where The American Legion could offer information about VA benefits, civilian career opportunities and other transition-based interests, Planto sees nothing but opportunity when the organization engages those on one side or the other of a DD-214 that hasn’t withered with age.

Last summer, for instance, the U.S. Naval Academy women’s volleyball team rented one of Post 291’s rooms for a dinner as they were training nearby “and it just so happened to be a Friday night, when we do our dinner and dance,” Planto said. They had no clue what The American Legion was, but they really loved talking to the Navy veterans who served in Vietnam.” The players joined in the post flag parade that night and snapped to attention during the playing of the national anthem.

As much as the busy post can – with an American Legion Family membership of more than 7,100, counting American Legion Auxiliary and Sons of The American Legion – it is making deliberate steps to improve the entire member experience, regardless of age. “My daughter is 28,” Planto says. “And I ask myself, would she ever want to come in here?”

Soon after he retired from the Army in 2010, Evin and Lynette Planto visited a few American Legion posts in other places, but they weren’t drawn to them. They later moved to coastal southern California to be closer to family and discovered Post 291. “When we saw this, we said, ‘Hey, this is great. Let’s give it a try.’”

A former ROTC computer science grad and certified information security professional, Planto left active duty in 1985 but stayed on as a Reserve before he was called up to the Pentagon in 2003 for communications planning with some of America’s highest-ranking wartime leaders. He deployed to Iraq the following year, where he served as communications director, International Zone, Baghdad, and led massive battlefield communications infrastructure operations that put him on IED-infested roads under drone-patrolled skies around the dawn of the second battle of Fallujah. “It was very interesting,” he says of his time in theater. “We were getting mortared, and rockets and all that fun stuff, and when things would break, it’s not like you could just go down to Radio Shack and buy more parts.”

More recently and less dangerously, he has immersed himself in American Legion history and the national online Basic Training program for a clearer understanding of the organization. With no aspirations for district or department offices, Planto says he is learning all he can, with help from mentors and an open-minded executive board, just to do his best for the post he joined 11 months ago. “The best job in the Army is company commander,” he says. “And this is my company.”

Post 291 has been one of the nation’s top competitors at the national convention color guard contest in recent years. And 2021 American Legion Boys Nation President Ryan Jung began his journey through California American Legion Boys State after sponsorship from Post 291. Post Service Officer Cory Vigil was named Veteran of the Year in 2021 for the legislative district that includes Newport Harbor, thanks to his tireless work to help veterans and military-connected families in transition. “Our service officer … is incredible,” Planto says. “I am blessed here. He is really something.” The post also manages an emergency assistance fund for veterans in need and actually increased membership by staying open for take-out orders during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The post website is dynamic, and e-newsletters go out weekly to announce various activities, from Veterans Coffee Talk Saturdays to American Legion Baseball fundraisers, honor guard opportunities, Taco Tuesdays and Jazz Night performers.  

With less than a year of membership under his belt, the Post 291 commander has yet to personally experience all the programs, services and activities of the Legion, but every day, he pushes to make the experience more appealing to new recruits as well as regulars.

Initiatives might be as simple as adding heaters for foggy coastal evenings on the patio or the replacement of outdated drop ceilings in the banquet hall. Facility improvements and some preventive maintenance, Planto says, will help the popular post celebrate its centennial in two and a half years. “When I ran, I ran on improving the member experience,” he says. “We are working on all of that and making lots of progress.”

Ultimately, his goal is to “keep it interesting, give members a place to come and have fun” and newly introduce eligible members to an organization that’s over a century old.

A new member himself, Planto understands both the challenge and the opportunity. “It’s difficult to reach out and find these people and get them to know who you are, and then get them to join,” he says. “I am thinking we can change that paradigm to, instead of us looking for the vets, have the vets come looking for us… so that when they leave the service, they will seek out The American Legion.”

Share your Wreaths Across America plans with us

For more than three decades, American Legion Family members across the nation have joined with other Americans to gather in December to "remember our fallen U.S. veterans, honor those who serve, and teach children the value of freedom" through the placing of wreaths on veterans’ graves.

This year, Dec. 18 will mark the 29th National Wreaths Across America Day. Annually, more than 1 million wreaths are placed across more than 2,000 locations in the United States and throughout the world, honoring the veterans buried at those gravesites.

American Legion Family members have long been a part of Wreaths Across America events throughout the country, and with measures taken to ensure safety during the pandemic, 2020 was no different.

In Wisconsin, in a tradition dating back to 2012, members of American Legion Riders District 8 have led the effort to raise funds to place wreaths at the Central Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Cemetery in King. And for the third straight year, those fundraising efforts ensured that a wreath was placed on every grave at the cemetery – more than 7,200 – through Wreaths Across America.

In Henrico County, Va., all 1,444 veteran graves in Seven Pines National Cemetery had wreaths placed on them, thanks to fundraising efforts by American Legion Post 242 in Sandston. The post has hosted the event for four years and has ensured every veteran’s grave was honored for the past three years. Volunteers assisted in the placing of the wreaths.

And in other communities across the country, Legion Family members either led or assisted other Wreaths Across America efforts. Similar efforts are anticipated this year.

American Legion posts and Legion Family members participating in this annual program are encouraged to email sbrooks@legion.org in advance to share your plans for potential coverage in American Legion media. Posts can share their wreath-laying stories on the Legion's web page www.legiontown.org.

For more information about Wreaths Across America, click here. For all social media postings, use the hashtag #LiveTheirLegacy2021.

Deadline extended: Take survey to assess veterans' needs

The American Legion is conducting a national survey of veterans to get a better understanding of how the ongoing pandemic has affected their mental and physical wellbeing.

Your participation will be kept confidential. Data from the survey will be used to help The American Legion advocate on behalf of the nation’s veterans.

You may access the survey at this link. The survey, which takes no more than 10 minutes to finish, will remain open until Dec. 5.

Johnson shares Giving Tuesday message with national audience

It’s “Giving Tuesday” and Jimmie Johnson is devoting the entire day to help The American Legion and The Jimmie Johnson Foundation meet its goal of raising $248,000 for its charitable causes.

For Johnson, who drives the No. 48 Carvana/American Legion Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, he is giving his time and effort to the global movement that encourages people to give back to their communities. Last year, more than 34 million people participated.

Johnson’s “Giving Tuesday” began quite early, with appearances on “The Morning Drive” with Pete Pistone and Mike Bagley on the Sirius/XM NASCAR Channel 90 at 7 a.m. Eastern Time.

At 8:15 a.m., Johnson was on the set of CBS Mornings with hosts Gayle King, Tony Dokoupil and Nate Burleson, where he spoke about the importance of “Giving Tuesday” and the challenge he made to the viewers to meet the $248,000 goal.

“Last year, the American Legion had an amazing year on Giving Tuesday and raised $150,000,” Johnson said of CBS Mornings. “We would love to challenge my fans and everyone watching on this very special day to raise more. We would love to incentivize people to go to Legion.org/48 and make a $48 donation. There are so many important services out there, but being with The American Legion over the course of the year and looking at their focus on giving back to the veterans is important.

“Suicide, ironically, is a really, really big problem and one of many causes they are working hard to help the public understand. Every dollar raised will help in their cause and help the people that defend our country.”

The show hosts were curious about why the donations were set at $48, but the answer was quite obvious. “It’s my race car number,” Johnson said.

Giving back to the community has always been a major priority to Johnson and his wife Chandra. “My wife and I have always given back in different ways growing up,” he explained. “We were challenged to start a foundation in my early days starting in NASCAR. The foundation is now 16 years old. There have been many causes we have supported and have paid attention to, most recently public education in the areas where we grew up in California and in North Carolina.”

After retiring from NASCAR following the 2020 season, the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and winner of 83 races made the jump to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. His major sponsor is Carvana, and The American Legion is the major associate sponsor.

That opened Johnson’s horizons and got him involved with The American Legion. He has been The Legion’s spokesperson in many of its causes, especially its suicide prevention program. That is a major reason for Johnson’s active involvement in “Giving Tuesday.”

“Today is a cool day,” he said on The Morning Drive on Sirius/XM. “It’s really neat that it exists and allows many to be reminded of the great causes out there and the need that exists. It’s very apparent to all of us with the pandemic and the issues that are going on, a lot of people have been hit hard by the pandemic and a lot of needs and great causes prior to that.

“I’ve had an incredible year in the INDYCAR SERIES getting to know our partners, including The American Legion. To understand the true need that exists with our veterans returning from service. Many are very young. Suicide prevention is one of the highest priorities for The American Legion and one of the biggest issues that we have with veterans returning. We are taking this opportunity on Giving Tuesday to raise awareness for that, for their cause and to give to The American Legion if they can, to help with this major cause and many others for the veterans returning home from service.”

Military service and helping veterans are a major cause for Johnson. In fact, it hits close to home for the racing legend.

“Both of my grandfathers served, and my brother-in-law served, so being around the armed forces was special to me,” Johnson said. “To know there is still such a need for these young men and women returning, obviously many needs for our older veterans as well, I’ve had my eyes opened this year to the great work The American Legion does and the huge need that is there for all of the people that defend our freedom.

“I’ve experienced it this year meeting many of the older vets in The American Legion. They thank us for recognizing them. It’s so crazy to me that they are thanking us for the recognition when we owe them a huge debt of gratitude for their service and dedication to our country. They dedicated their lives to defend our freedoms. It’s always amazing to me how humble they are and how thankful they are for the acknowledgement INDYCAR gives them, NASCAR gives them and how they would always honor the men and women that defend our country.”

Although the purpose for Johnson to appear on both CBS Mornings and The Morning Drive was to create awareness for The American Legion and “Giving Tuesday.” But the Chip Ganassi Racing driver did give an update on where things stand regarding a potential run in the 106th Indianapolis 500 in 2022.

“I’m so glad you asked, Gayle,” Johnson quipped to Gayle King at CBS. “I’m working towards it. I’ve been in an Indy car twice now on an oval and was in fact at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. We hope to get something put together soon, but there are a lot of moving pieces. Unfortunately, nothing to announce just yet.”

Johnson went into more detail on his racing “Bucket List” items on Sirius/XM Radio.

“I’m looking really hard at the Indy 500,” he said. “I tested at Texas and drove at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in one of those cars at 225 miles an hour. That’s quite the experience. That’s very high on my bucket list to accomplish. Hopefully, we’ll be able to make that happen one way or another in the coming years.

“In addition to that is the 24 Hours of Le Mans in terms of cars I want to drive and experiences that I want to have.”

The 106th Indianapolis 500 remains in the future, but “Giving Tuesday” is in the present and Johnson is giving much of his time to help support the cause.

“Take advantage of Giving Tuesday and try to help,” he said.

Video gaming as healing for veterans

Stephen “Shanghai Six” Machuga, the founder and CEO of Stack Up, joins The American Legion Tango Alpha Lima podcast this week to discuss how his organization combines video gaming and PTSD healing.

Stack Up was founded in 2015 to bring veterans and civilians together through a shared love of video gaming. Machuga, who deployed to Iraq in 2003 with the 2nd Infantry Division, says he “whittled through the seemingly endless 13-month deployment with the help of video games."

After graduating from Purdue University on a ROTC scholarship, Machuga joined the Army. He is a former infantry/military intelligence officer and Airborne Ranger. After leaving the service in 2006, he spent 10 years in Washington, D.C., as a government counter-terrorism analyst.

In 2010, a buddy who was deployed in Afghanistan asked Machuga to help him get an Xbox. “The response back was huge. It was overwhelming. There were pallets of stuff sent to us.”

That’s a good thing, Machuga recalls, since requests for video games flooded in after the first delivery. “That’s how it all got started.”

Now Stack Up funds trips for veterans to major video gaming events. They also coordinate volunteer efforts. Last but not least is the Overwatch Program.

“It’s peer-based counseling for veterans who are struggling,” said Machuga, a member of American Legion Post 283 in Pacific Palisades, Calif. “We’re taking a crack at the 22 a day number. We’re throwing everything we can at the whole veteran mental health conversation through gaming and e-culture.” 

Another recent podcast episode also focused on video gaming and the military. In case you missed it, check out this episode featuring Sgt. Erin Rich, the Air Force Gaming Community Esports Operations Manager. She talks about the gaming community initiative that brings Airmen and Guardians of all ages, ranks and backgrounds together for camaraderie and competition.

Both episodes are among the nearly 100 Tango Alpha Lima podcasts that are available at this web page. You can also download them on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or other major podcast-hosting sites. You can also view all of the episodes on the Legion’s YouTube channel.

 

Do you have a U.S. flag story? Share it with The American Legion

The American Legion and the Citizens Flag Alliance are invigorating pride for and building awareness about why the U.S. flag matters. To support this effort,The American Legion would like to hear from you about your pride for the symbol of unity and freedom.

Please share your flag moment with photos at legiontown.org under the heading “Rally Around the Flag.” Or share on your social media channels and use the hashtag #rallyaroundtheflag. Read submissions from others about their flag moment at legion.org/flag

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