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"Checkmate" To PTSD
by MaryTherese Griffin, U.S. Army Warrior Care and Transition
April 1, 2018

Retired Staff Sgt. Patrick Barrington sits at a chess board planning his first move. (Photo Courtesy Staff Sgt. Patrick Barrington) Going to war on a battlefield could be compared to a game of chess. Strategic moves are needed to advance and conquer. Staff Sgt. Patrick Barrington was no pawn in this chess game called life. The now retired M1 Armor Crewman and his team operated armored equipment and fired weapons to destroy enemy positions.

Unforgettable images…Injuries…Post-traumatic stress…Heavy stuff.

Barrington was medically transported to the Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Sam Houston, Texas from Saudi Arabia in 2013 because his superiors thought he had severe PTSD and paranoia while also suffering from shoulder and back injuries.

Placing the right soldier for the right reason at this WTB would be just as great as a move on the chess board. However, bringing in an actual chess board would wind up being a brilliant move.

The game of chess was introduced to Barrington as therapy by his site coordinator Brad Bowen and he says it’s the best gift anyone has ever given to him.

Chess started out as a hobby for Barrington, but it soon evolved into more. The game revolves around numbers, and this armored crewman had an affinity for math. He’s gotten quite good since he began playing with his official chess ranking hovering around 1300. But even better than that, he is encouraging others to play chess and stay out of trouble.

“I have been able to introduce chess to hundreds of teenagers at Camp Minden, the school where I teach. This game gives the kids something to do that could possibly distract them from getting involved in drugs and alcohol. I tell them instead of going to the club at night; find a chess club,” Barrington said. “Chess is an underappreciated game in the United States. Most Americans want entertainment that centers around their emotions, while chess is all logic. I encourage them to embrace the latter.”

In his 2016 book TRIBE, Bestselling author Sebastian Junger makes it clear that, “Perhaps most important when dealing with PTSD is that Veterans need to feel that they are just as necessary and productive back in society as they were on the battlefield.” The Warrior Care and Transition Program is designed to do just that. It provides Career Education and Readiness tools, Clinical assistance and Adaptive Reconditioning to support and help each Soldier advance toward their future be it returning to duty or transitioning out of the Army.

Now you do not' need to be a math wizard to be great at chess, even though the game is mathematical. Chess legend Bobby Fisher did not finish high school and he obtained a ranking of 2770 on top of a world championship.

Barrington’s championship is in handling his PTSD by reconditioning his energy from brawn to brain. He now teaches adult education at Camp Minden La. for troubled youths, mostly high school algebra and social studies. “A lot of people I introduce the game to, especially teenagers, make the mistake of treating it like boxing or football. They believe they can win at it with heart and I have to explain to them that their emotions are irrelevant, you will have to play this game with your brain.”


by aryTherese Griffin, U.S. Army Warrior Care and Transition
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2018

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