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Value For Veterans In Wargaming
by U.S. Army Sgt. Michael Giles -  February 24, 2016

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AUSTIN, Texas - Tabletop war-games are a great pastime for hobbyists and collectors. Thanks to some support from the Texas Military Department's Camp Mabry, these games are also serving as a valuable outlet for veterans and their family members in central Texas.

Eighteen individuals faced off across from each other, looking down at the delicately crafted game on the table between them. In the back of their minds, they may remember this as a Saturday in February, 2016, and that they are gathered in the Hall of Honor in the Texas Military Forces Museum at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas. In the creative foregrounds of their experience, however, the players find themselves in Tunisia, Russia, France, or any of the other deadly theatres of World War II.

Joe Wicker, an Army veteran, participates in wargaming in a Texas Bolt Action event hosted by the Texas Miltary Forces Museum at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, Feb. 6, 2016. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Michael Giles)
Joe Wicker, an Army veteran, participates in wargaming in a Texas Bolt Action event hosted by the Texas Miltary Forces Museum at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, Feb. 6, 2016. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Michael Giles)

Texas Bolt Action is a group of craftsmen, hobbyists and gamers who dedicate time, energy, money, and creativity to enjoying the different facets of tabletop games that replicate historical battles. Players assemble and paint their intricate terrains and miniatures, later sharing photographs of their works online. This sunny winter Saturday, their gathering was hosted by the Texas Military Forces Museum, home to a collection of historical weapons, vehicles, uniforms, and other reminders of Texas' warrior heritage.

Players enjoy wargaming and these meetups for different reasons. Joe Wicker, a retired Army officer and veteran of Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom, says, "it's an opportunity to have fun and relax a bit." He enjoys discussing his lifelong fascination with military history and his belief that it is an important subject for our society to study.

"It's important to teach about the military so that people better understand our sacrifices for our country," Wicker said.

Radiologist, retired Air Force officer, and father of four, Chris Lisanti said he has appreciated the game for the educational value since his youngest son got him into it years ago.

"They understand and gain a sense of their heritage and understanding of the world," Lisanti said. "World War II is a profound historical event."

Carlos Sierra, a player who served in the Navy during the Gulf War, explained that he finds therapeutic value in wargaming. This sheds possible light on the value that veterans find in painting and assembling their armies and terrain, and then getting together to compete.

"It helps PTSD," Sierra said. "It helps me relax."

Play and art have both demonstrated their value in the mental health field. Not all players present were veterans, but most were either former service members or their sons. The elements of the game that participants said they appreciated--the relaxation, connection and understanding origins—are all aspects of mental well-being.

Sierra pointed to the battle represented on the table between him and his opponent. "It has helped me acknowledge that this does exist and it's ok to walk away from it," he said.

By U.S. Army Sgt. Michael Giles
Texas Army National Guard
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2016

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