BRISTOW, VA -- Retired Capt. Stephen "Shanghai Six" Machuga put the final touches on a special care package destined for U.S. troops stationed in Iraq.
Having spent time deployed in Honduras, Kosovo, and Iraq, Machuga knows about the importance of sending care packages to troops overseas. He also knows the importance of what's in them.
That's why the care packages that come from his non-profit organization "Operation Supply Drop" are packed full of video games and the hardware required to play them. After all, he knows firsthand what it's like for the troops to receive a care package with nothing desirable inside.
"[It] happened when I was overseas, deployed to Iraq," said Machuga. "I got a random care package and was excited to open it. When I cracked it open, I found that a library had decided to donate several dozen of their ancient harlequin romance novels."
He went on to say that he appreciated the effort even if the gesture wasn't thought out too well. Machuga and his fellow troops did get some use out of the book, however. "We ended up using them on the confiscated small arms range as targets," he explained.
Without a single romance novel included, the latest care package, code named "Grease Gun" after the M3 machine gun used shortly after World War II, has gotten support directly from game publishers. The 2K Games-owned label Rockstar pitched in by supplying copies of the crime drama game L.A. Noire. Other publishers have helped in the past. They include casual games company PopCap Games, mega-publisher Electronic Arts, and Japanese game publisher/developer Square-Enix.
Overall, the troops the Machuga has had contact with have been quite appreciative.
"Thanks to even the most remote bases having at least one machine allowing Internet access, we get a variety of pictures and thank you messages from the folks who get our care packages," said Machuga.
One such response gave mention of a medic playing Activision's Call of Duty:
"I have never seen these guys and gals smile so much in 4 months of being deployed. Your generosity and extraordinary gift has come at a much needed time as we have taken some personal losses here and it has been a very tough week, not a day goes by that I don't find my Medics laughing, singing, and talking smack over a good game since the package has arrived.
While playing COD, one of my medics asked, "What makes us so special that someone would do all this for us?" I told him it's cause you go out on convoys, work 7 days a week, and when someone yells 'medic' you run towards the fire. He smiled and said, "I guess I DO do all that stuff sarge!"
Unfortunately, not all of the care packages sent through Operation Supply Drop make it to their respective destinations. One package sent on May 21 to troops stationed in Afghanistan was destroyed when insurgents hit a U.S. military caravan with an IED. Only one vehicle was destroyed during the attack, but that vehicle was the one carrying a month's worth of mail and Machuga's care package was reportedly one of the items destroyed in the explosion.
"I have not received the package yet and am pretty sure it was on that truck," a soldier wrote to Machuga. "But I will let you know if I find out otherwise."
No word to the contrary has been received at Operation Supply Drop.
Still, Machuga continues to build and send off gaming care packages to the troops because he knows just how much shipments like his mean to troops stationed abroad.
By Game Guy Barry White, firstname.lastname@example.org