Hiyuh, I’m Sage. I’d like to talk to you about StackUp, their mission, and why it has connected so profoundly with me.
In my youth, I had a complicated relationship with my father, but had an exceedingly kind, meek, and loving mother. At that time my mother, father, and I lived on a boat and moved around South Florida quite a bit. For a kid, this was an amazing experience, but I was often very lonely. Add my dad to that situation and you would find a musically talented boy, who kept to himself but had great difficulty connecting with others, especially children of my own age. I was confused, anxious, easily hurt, and often, misdirected. My friends were the six strings on my guitar. My loneliness and experience in life made me a confused kid. While at times baring the responsibility and expectations of an adult, I longed for play, friendship, and escape. Meanwhile, I would sabotage potential relationship; distancing myself from others before they could hurt me.
Our final stint on the boat was marked by a move to a new marina. As usual, I found myself being productive in meeting new people there, getting to know them and their families, and loved hearing their stories of travel around the world. I was usually put to work quickly on side jobs, cleaning barnacles off props and rudders, washing and waxing hulls, cleaning cars – if it was a job I could do, believe me, I did it. Folks were quick to notice a young kid willing to work who was also capable of doing the job right.
He stood flicking a bit of ash from his cigar, removed his aviators, and asked, “You heading out fishing?”.
In my personal time, you would find me taking a little fishing boat out on the Caloosahatchee River. I loved to fish, and it was an escape from the troubles at home. One day on my way out of the marina heading towards open water, I passed a sailboat in our marina called The Eagle. A tall man, handsome, strong, and confident sat behind the helm facing the water and took notice of me heading out to fish. I waved and shouted, “Good evening, Sir!”. He stood flicking a bit of ash from his cigar, removed his aviators, and asked, “You heading out fishing?”.
I remember every detail of the moment as if I were describing what I see in my living room as I type this. In that moment I met a lifelong friend, mentor, father figure, role model, Hero. As I got to know Mike through our fishing trips, he told me about some of his time in Vietnam as a Marine. I never met a Marine before, and I knew nothing of the sacrifice and dedication of veterans around the world. I was awe-struck. We grew closer over the next two years and he continued to shape and mold me not only in word but in action. Mike regularly took me to community initiative events in our hometown. The man was everywhere! After a long day working for the United States Post Office or on the weekends, he was ALWAYS finding a way to give back, to effect positive change not only in the larger community but right there in our marina. Wherever we went people knew him and they loved him just as much as I do.
Mike was also an avid gamer. He and I would play Halo or Call of Duty until the sun came up. We would wait outside for GameStop to open just itching to get our hands on the latest title. Then we would hit up every fast food joint, buying our favorites from each. Then it was GAME TIME all weekend. There was no corner of my life left in the dark. Mike celebrated my music, he was there for me when my dad and I fought, he nurtured my work ethic and molded my empathy towards others.
I could fill a book with every thought and experience over those two years with Mike. He shaped and molded the man I am today. He took a very confused, hurt, and at times hurtful kid and taught him the value of giving back, of community, of compassion, and most importantly, the tremendous value in service. He remains my inspiration for everything I do, for the person I want to be, and the effect I want to have on those around me.
When StackUp reached out to me and I read their mission, I was in tears. Even now I’m tearing up thinking of it. Whether through Supply Crates packed with video games and consoles, Air Assaults all-expense paid trips for veterans to attend gaming and geek culture events, The Stacks volunteers who bring comfort and friendship to veterans coping with PTSD or transitioning back to civilian life, or the Overwatch Program’s 24/7 crisis intervention and peer to peer mental health support for veterans and civilians alike – my duty to myself and more importantly, my duty to the Vietnam Veteran and Marine in my life was clear. THIS is how I can give back. THIS is a way I can repay the immeasurable and profound effect Mike had on my life.
I want you to know, reader, that support is not restricted to donations. Simply being there in-stream anytime on Friday, May 15th, 2020 from 9am to 5pm (est) absolutely IS supporting. Where? Twitch.TV/OrenjiiroSage
Please accept my gratitude for spending your personal time to read my story about Mike and why it’s an honor and privilege to host this event with StackUp.