This charity helps troops beat Halo when they're not beating the Taliban
Operation Supply Drop (OSD) is the kind of organization that sounds very simple at first. They collect donated video games, console systems, and cash to send gaming care packages to troops overseas and here in the United States. The nonprofit calls these care packages "supply drops."
As anyone who's been deployed can attest, the periods of excitement and fear are interspersed with long periods of monotony. OSD began in a garage with an Iraq War vet boxing up donations to help his peers enjoy the same hobby he loved: gaming.
The expansion had some growing pains. The founder publicly split and created his own new organization. But the CEO, Glen Banton, is excited for all the ways OSD's expanded mission has let them serve veterans.
"We're in the business of helping veterans," he said in an interview with WATM. "Unfortunately, the video game thing sometimes overshadows the other things we do. But essentially, it needs to be about putting veterans first. How can we keep supporting as many vets as possible. That's while you're deployed and need something to spend your time with, or when you get home and have other needs."
Photo: Courtesy Army Maj. Erik Johnson
OSD began by enlarging the supply drop program, and then adding on new programs.
"The supply drops increased in size and scope. We started going to bases themselves, rec centers, mess halls, day rooms, hospitals, events, Halloween and Christmas parties... Anywhere we can impact a lot of troops per day and have fun."
In a recent supply drop at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, OSD worked with Army occupational therapist Maj. Eric Johnson who has used video games to help wounded warriors progress in their therapy. But the center had just an old Nintendo Wii with which to work.
Johnson gave a wish list to OSD who was able to get the medical center six new video game consoles and almost 100 games plus peripherals like steering wheels. It was OSD's largest supply drop yet.
"Glen and his team, they came with OSD last week and, blew me away," Johnson said. "Way more than I had asked for, way more than I anticipated."
Then there are "Thank You Deployments," where a veteran or a small group of veterans get to participate in a special event or outing, usually by working with corporate or non-profit partners.
"There are VIP outings, genuinely relevant to the veteran," Banton said. "So, we might take them to a gaming conference or on a trip to a studio. But there might be other stuff.
"We've had race car experiences. We met a driver who worked for Forza and is a vet. He helps get them full access, a ride in the pace car, access to the lounge. It's really amazing.
"And as the community grows, it continues to get broader and broader. It doesn't take us away from gaming. It takes us to people who are gamers and do other stuff."
OSD also has a "Teams" program. The teams encourage people to get locally connected with active duty service members and veterans so everyone can engage at the local level on big issues like veteran suicide, depression, homelessness, and unemployment.
"The Teams Program is the action arm of OSD," Banton said. "They're local chapters with veteran and civilian members who address things like veteran suicide or homelessness. Really, what we look at with the teams is, how do we create within Seattle, L.A., Muncie, Indiana, how do we engage in a way that helps?"
While it may seem like this is OSD straying from their roots as a gamer-veteran focused charity, Banton and his team don't see it that way.
Glenn explained, "If someone asks, 'Hey, OSD, I need some help and don't know where to go. I think I can get this job but I don't have the clothes,' or 'I don't have the home base to do the interview,' we can help with that.
"So we can, for a thousand dollars, get them housed for six months and get them help through this community, then they become a big part of the community.
"That individual doesn't have space to enjoy an XBox if he wanted to. to us, it's very clear and it's easy. We know exactly what we're supposed to be doing: Inspiring veterans and other civilian supporters to give back to those around them."
For those interested in getting involved helping veterans through OSD, head to "The Teams" page, make a donation, or learn about the 8-bit Salute where gamers can play to raise money for future supply drops and other events.