RICHMOND, Va. — Jason Parker is 41, but with a video game controller in hand, the longtime gamer is truly a kid at heart.
“I’ve never driven a real car before, so I guess that’s normal,” Parker said.
Beyond fun and games, Parker called his game serious business.
Parker served in two branches of the military, first as a sailor in the Navy and then as a combat medic in the Army.
While deployed to Afghanistan in 2011, Jason suffered head trauma in an explosion.
“I have trouble remembering the particular incident,” Parker said. “I’ve been through personal struggles since leaving the military. Now, a decade later, I’m in a good place.”
Parker called the recovery a long effort.
“I wake up every day now surprised and hopeful, which isn’t usually how I’ve woken up in the past,” he said.
Video games are a path to healing.
“I’m incredibly lucky to be where I am and do what I do,” Parker said.
Tech 4 Troops hired Jason with the Master Gamer title.
“I had no idea a job like this existed,” Parker said.
Through online gaming, Parker is giving veterans a way to connect and gain confidence virtually.
“It’s a useful tool to get them to open up and I really like being able to connect with my brothers and sister,” he said.
The nonprofit organization provides military men and women with refurbished computers and training that can lead to job opportunities.
Tech 4 Troops President and CEO Mark Casper, who served in the Marines, admires his colleague for reaching out to veterans in a non-traditional way.
“It’s his generation and younger that understands the gaming community,” Casper said. “When I see a Jason surviving and thriving, it makes me feel good that we’re doing something right. That we’re in the right place at the right time at the right time and we’re doing something to change the world.
The nonprofit’s video game wing is like a pit crew for veterans on life’s winding road.
“My strength is that I’m ready to play anything,” Parker said. “The game is one of the means that I use as therapy.”
Parker said he plans to cross the finish line with flying colors and will invite other veterans to participate in the race.
“It’s really something special when you can find your purpose in something you really enjoy,” he said.
Click here if you want to learn more about play therapy from Jason and Tech 4 Troops.