World of Warships’ Operation Lifeboat Raises Critical Funds to Assist StackUp.org’s Mission to Support Veterans’ and Service Members’ Mental Health
Nowadays, when the practice of social distancing and self-isolation is becoming more and more ubiquitous, the need for social interaction and tools that keep us connected is more evident than ever.
In prior weeks, this series has introduced readers to three service members whose lives have changed because of the critical support they received from StackUp.org, a nonprofit organization that brings veterans together through a shared love of video gaming.
This week, we get to go behind the scenes and meet Chris Kunz, one of 13 volunteers who help service members get through deployments and recover from traumatic injuries. To connect with service members who reach out to Stack Up for support, Kunz uses Discord, a tool used by gamers to anonymously communicate via text chats, direct messages, voice chat, and video chat.
This way, Stack Up “allows you to bring forth your issues with anonymity,” said Kunz, who is an active duty service member with the U.S. Army. “And that in itself is extremely helpful, because there is still that stigma that going out and seeking help is going to be detrimental.”
Kunz is the fourth service member to be featured in Military Times as part of a series that tracks a fundraising campaign dubbed Operation Lifeboat, run by Wargaming, the developer of World of Warships and other online games, and Stack Up. You can view videos and read the stories of other services members Chad Fischer, Jeff Stephens and Rob Ferguson who were profiled earlier in the campaign.
Already, World of Warships gamers have raised $98,000 for Operation Lifeboat – putting the campaign tantalizingly close to its $100,000 goal in just three weeks. The proceeds come from the sale of two limited-edition in-game bundles called Life Line and Life Ring, which includes special missions, exclusive items, and permanent power-ups within the World of Warships online game. Wargaming is donating 100% of the proceeds of each $12 Life Line bundle and $30 Life Ring bundle to Stack Up’s Overwatch Program, one of the programs by which Stack Up supports service members and civilians. The bundles will remain on sale through the end of April.
The money is earmarked to help provide continuous overnight support for an entire year by supplementing volunteers with paid staff.
“We have round the clock coverage,” said Mathew Bergendahl, Manager of Stack Up’s Overwatch Program. “We currently rely solely on volunteers, but this would allow us to have paid staff to ensure that there aren’t any gaps.”
With 19 years of active duty service under his belt, Kunz has a depth of knowledge and experience with military life that make him an ideal volunteer counselor.
“The connections that you build through the military are so meaningful and so strong,” Kunz said. “As military members, we’ve done things with our battle buddies that somebody who has never served a day in their life are not going to understand. Many of the individuals who are on the [Stack Up] Overwatch Program team ... are veterans and have gone through it themselves. With Stack Up providing that forum, it gives them the opportunity to begin their individual path to growth and recovery. You’re not in this alone. No veteran is in this alone.”