Wake Forest resident holds military simulation games to help with PTSD.
By David Allen
WAKE FOREST — When soldiers come back from active duty, there aren’t many activities that are both fun and stress-relieving.
Enter Ben “Jammin” Thomas. The Youngsville resident is Alpha company commander of a military simulation paintball team out of Fayettville called Task Force Legion — a branch of a larger organization by the same name that spans the country.
Thomas’ team makes it their mission to help veterans, active duty personnel, and men and women entering the military to cope with the stress of modern warfare by offering a creative and fun way to power down from stress in the service.
Pvt. 1st Class Ethan Livesay, who’s in his second year of active duty, enjoys using paintball as a way to de-stress from the Army lifestyle.
“The people we have to deal with (in the military) on a daily basis are not always the nicest,” he said. “So you keep holding it in and holding it in, but when you come out here (to play) and relieve all the stress you have, it really helps.
“We’re here to help active duty soldiers who are out (retired) or planning on staying in for a little while and help them with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), and I’m telling you, it really helps.”
Task Force Legion specializes in scenario paintball consisting of military-like operations incorporating from 80 to more than 1,000 participants from many parts of the country. They create tightly knit groups that use battlefield tactics and advanced technology to engage in fun warfare.
The company’s latest event was a Sept. 21 woodsball game (paintball in the woods) at the Extreme Kombat field off N.C. 98 just over the Durham County line.
They arrived early at 8:30 a.m. and stayed until 6:30 p.m.
The entire team gathered at their tent to begin prepping their gear and catch up with members they hadn’t seen in a while.
The players broke up into two teams.
The day’s winner was the team that earned the most points. Points were awarded for completing objectives and winning matches.
Scenarios consisted of capture the flag, object retrieval games, control point matches — where teams had to help specific areas for points — and the rescue of a “downed pilot.”
During a break, two new members were initiated into the team. The entire group gathered in welcome and they emphasized that the biggest part of their team was to act with honor and professionalism towards one another and other players.
Army veteran Kevin “Terminator” Varvel shared his long history with paintball beginning in his service days.
“It was a stress reliever, it was fun, a team-building experience and it just went from there,” he said.
“I’ve been playing ever since,” he added. “I’m a lot older now than a lot of the other guys out here, so it no longer works so much as a stress reliever, but instead keeps me in shape, helps me to still be sociable and keep in touch with the military.”
J.D. Shasky and Andrew Steinhoff are preparing to enter the Marine Corps and U.S. Navy, respectively. They like being around active and former military members. It helps them set their goals higher with regard to what they want to do themselves.
“If you want something in life,” Steinhoff said, “you can’t just wait for it. You have to go and get it. Like in paintball, you can’t just sit behind a bunker; you’ve got to get that objective.”
Shasky also encouraged those who are entering the military: “Just remember when you’re in boot camp, basic, or whatever, [higher-ups] are always there to help you no matter how hard they push you. Always keep your head high. They are breaking you down to make you stronger.
“I also want to say thank you to all service members because it’s a volunteer force and people forget that, always hold your head high for what you’ve done,” he added.
Task Force Legion is always looking for more people to join up. They especially want to be there for their fellow veterans and active duty personnel. For more information, see tiny.cc/TFLpaint or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.