‘Gold Star Gamers’ and Military Esports Teams Help Children of Fallen Troops Cope With Loss

Modern “games” aren’t just about sitting around an idiot box and endlessly moving squares on the screen in different directions. These days, video games (also known as “esports”) are big business, his $220 billion+ industry expected to grow to over $5 trillion by 2030.

Related: 6 Ways Esports and Gaming Prepare Veterans for Life

Its popularity extends to the military, with most branches having official esports teams and all using the game as a recruitment tool. The USO recognizes that gaming is an effective way of coping with military stress, and has installed at least one gaming system in every lounge, with dedicated rooms wherever possible.

Studies have even shown that video games can help the army with post-traumatic stress disorder.

One Gold Star mother found gaming as an opportunity to heal her widowed family and reunite with her son. She soon founded Gold Star Her Gamers, giving other military families who lost their loved ones a chance to do the same.

“Like any parent who fights for their child, I think I needed to make my son understand that you can’t wave a magic wand to make him better,” Martha Rachman told Military.com. “But I can work really, really, really hard to give him the tools to help him better himself. And because the program wasn’t there for us.” , I made it.”

Like many spouses who have lost military personnel, Rahman did as best she could when she requested that family names and details of her husband’s military service not be included in this article. , the son suffered from its loss. He had poor grades in school and Mr. Rahman, who used to be his social worker, was at a loss as to what to do.

She decided to set him up for the game. With a quick internet connection and a laptop, he was up and running. It turned out to be the first step in the right direction on a long journey.

“He set up a new laptop in his room, found his father’s old uniform, and taped an old photo of his father to the computer screen,” Rachman says. “He found his little headset and was talking to his dad. [memory] We played games together for about 16 hours a day. He kept doing it for months and months. “

Then she finds out that a US Cyber ​​Command soldier has won the Fortnite competition. Fortnite is a free-to-play battle royale game where 100 players fight to be the last man standing. Other versions of the game allow cooperative or team gameplay. In addition, some allow players to build and play their own worlds. The possibilities are endless.

As it happens, Fortnite was one of the games Rahman’s son played all day speaking to his father’s spirit. She decided to give this soldier a chance.

“I sent a message over there and said, ‘Hey, can your soldiers play with my son?'” They said, “Yes, set it up.” Rachman recalls. “This young soldier in uniform appeared in the video with his son and we talked to him.Then they played some games together.The experience has been a part of my family life. changed.”

That 45-minute gameplay completely changed her son, she said. For the first time since his accident, he opened up and began sharing his thoughts and feelings with his mother.

“He had never told me what he was going through before, and he told me something I didn’t know,” she says.

She remembered when, as a counselor, she provided the boys with activities that helped them bond. Also, she realized something else about her son.

“That soldier, that young man, was my son’s hero,” she says. “It’s not SEALs or Delta Force. To my son, his heroes are like Space Force, Cyber ​​Command, and Intel. Anyone who can operate a keyboard is my son’s hero.”

“He was talking to this guy like he had his tongue tied. This young soldier was wearing a uniform and winning a Fortnite competition, so it was beyond anything.”

Rahman wanted to capture more of it and realized that games were the key to reconnecting and reconnecting with his son. She discovered that she could help him rebuild his self-esteem through gaming competition. I arranged a gaming tournament using the cybersecurity connection at .

She brought together the cybersecurity and defense community and the military gaming community to host an esports competition just for the children of fallen soldiers. The reaction was incredible. Her small request to LinkedIn has been shared hundreds of thousands of times.

Soon she was being contacted all over the world, including Europe and the Middle East. She also started reaching out to companies like Adobe, Microsoft, and Twitch. Other veterans, military and first responder groups wanted to join too.

On July 4, 2022, Laughman and Andrew launched Gold Star Gamers. Gold Star Gamers is a non-profit organization that provides instruction, training camps and tournaments for children and families of retired military personnel. It also offers his one-on-one time with active gamers and grants the Gold Star family to purchase their first gaming setup.

Gold Star gamers will receive coaching from military esports team members in the first tournament in August 2022. (U.S. Army)

“Well, the real purpose is to help these kids anchor themselves in something good and find hope and healing.” They learn everything from hand-eye coordination, processing speed, in-game strategy, in-game communication, game IQ, teamwork, and I work with them We learn together.”

Some Gold Star gamers receive coaching from the same coaches who help train Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps esports teams. Rahman wants to ensure that those in need can experience the same rekindling of joy and happiness that he saw in his son on the day of his first game.

“If they lose a parent who served in the military, that’s our only requirement,” she says. I am in awe of how it builds self-esteem and communication.”

To learn more about Gold Star Gamer or to apply for one of their programs, training camps or mentorship opportunities, please visit our website.

— Blake Stilwell can be reached at blake.stilwell@military.com.You can also find him on Twitter @Blake Stillwell or on facebook.

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