Serving others is part of a veteran’s and first responder’s DNA. As a combat wounded disabled veteran with seven deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, I hold organizations who support veterans and first responders near and dear to my heart. When I first heard about Shellback Tech, I knew it was an organization doing good things for those who sacrificed themselves for others.

Shellback Tech is a non-profit organization that creates custom one-of-a-kind gaming/streaming computers for disabled veterans and first responders. They build and donate gaming or streaming rigs, desks, chairs, peripherals, microphones, gaming glasses, and monitors. Many of the recipients struggle with physical or mental disabilities such as post-traumatic stress (PTS) or traumatic brain injuries (TBI). In recent years, gaming has proven to be an effective tool to help with PTS and TBI. Virtual reality and gaming including first-person shooter games has shown benefits in learning, spatial cognition, planning, social organization, and communication. You can read more about gaming and treatment of PTS and TBI here.

Travis and Brittani Peacock started Shellback Tech in 2018 after his service in the Navy. “Initially we just wanted to help out other disabled vets that we knew wanted to get into gaming and streaming,” said Peacock. “I found gaming and streaming to be very therapeutic during my recovery and treatment after being injured.” His favorite games were Borderlands and Diablo.

“The stories were so amazing — I could choose my own adventure. It helped me escape my own reality for a while,” Peacock said. “It showed me that there was a way to connect again after service.” Gaming and streaming became so important to Peacock, he wanted to give the same outlet to others and hoped others could find a purpose that needed it.

Peacock spent his first three and a half years in the Navy as a mechanical engineer before training as a military police officer and deploying to Camp Bucca in Iraq.

“We tore the place down, and that’s where I was injured. I had about 500 pounds come down on me, I tore my meniscus in both my knees and messed up my back.”

After his deployment, Peacock finished his six-year enlistment at the Navy Reserve center in Fargo, ND, where he underwent surgery on his knees in 2011.

Peacock met his wife Brittani, in 2017, fresh out of follow-up surgeries and treatments. Together, they decided they wanted to give back to fellow veterans. That’s when his brainchild of a nonprofit focused on gaming and streaming PCs was born. “Brittani supported me from the first time we met and the very first build. She saw that it was so beneficial to my mental health,” Peacock said. “She made sure to iterate to me that if we did this, if we chose to go this path, there was no turning back and that we would be forever changing our own lives and the lives of our kids as well.”

It took the Peacocks roughly six months to get the nonprofit up and running once they decided to make Shellback Tech a reality. They chose the name because “Shellback” is a Naval term for an individual who has undergone a crossing-the-line ceremony (the line being the equator). Initially, they only intended to help fellow disabled veterans. However, when they met several disabled first responders, they began to think of them similar to vets. They put on a uniform. They serve. But they don’t get the same level of support that vets receive through the Department of Veterans Affairs. In October 2019, Shellback Tech began donating to first responders.

“They get a watch, social security, and disability—if they are lucky,” Travis Peacock said. “We didn’t change the program. We just opened it up to others who deserved it”.

38 and Counting

Shellback Tech has built and donated 38 gaming and streaming rigs, and the Peacocks plan to ship 16 more in 2020. They try to complete three builds per month, all funded by sponsors and donations.

"I have a great relationship with quite a few companies,” Travis Peacock said. “They have all stepped up to get us where we are. We couldn’t do it without them.”

In total, Shellback Tech has given over $100,000 in computer donations. Builds differ in terms of cost since each is unique to the individual and their interests or hobbies. Builds cost anywhere from $1500 to upwards of $6,000, not including labor. So far rigs have been purpose built for gaming and streaming. Each build has a theme, from a Marine Corps build in red with the eagle globe and anchor, to a custom Master Chief and Cortana HALO edition with frosted hard cooling tubes. The Peacocks research each nomination and finds out about the person being nominated. Once a recipient is selected, Travis Peacock tries to build a rig that is an extension of the individual’s personality. Brittani takes photos and helps with editing and social media.

Building three high-end rigs a month obviously has some space requirements, especially when looking at the customization on each rig. The Peacocks started out in their living room, then moved the operation to their entire garage after a move.

“I outfitted my garage with enough storage to allow multiple hand-crafted builds from the ground up,” he said. “I just wish there was ten of me and all people would do more for others.”

Veterans and first responder long to be part of their communities. For many, the hardest part of being disabled is being removed from that world. “When we get a diagnosis or paper saying, 'Sorry we no longer have a use for you,' it can be devastating,” Travis Peacock said. “Going home and drawing a paycheck if you’re lucky and not having a purpose really slams you into the ground.”

Like many organizations, Shellback Tech’s overall goal is to show veterans and first responders they are more than their disability and diagnosis. The Peacocks hope Shellback Tech offers a resource to help them find a new normal and hopefully break free from the stigma of disabilities. “You still have more in you to offer to society,” Travis Peacock said.

“The goodwill has proved to be contagious,” he added. “Many of the recipients have gone on to help others in their communities after they receive their rigs.” Recipients have used their rigs to help educate and advocate for veterans and first responders. Reading about how something helps them is great. Hearing how is even better. The videos below are testimonials from actual recipients.

Get Involved

It can be hard for people to understand disabilities, especially the invisible ones. Learning how to cope with anxiety and depression from PTS or a TBI can be harder than dealing with a physical disability. For me, it took years of speech and cognitive rehabilitation therapy, including gaming, to feel semi-normal and speak without stutters or losing my train of thought so easily. Gaming gives those who are struggling a way to escape reality and find enjoyment, even if only for a minute. Gaming also improves cognitive and other skills that can make people feel normal and back in control of their emotions and their bodies. Something most medications fail to do. Gaming really can change peoples lives.

How does one receive a gaming or streaming rig from Shellback Tech? Recipients are nominated by others — they cannot nominate themselves. Veteran nominees are required to have and prove a minimum of a 10% service-connected disability rating. First responders use the exact same nomination process and are required to show proof of their disabilities. If you know of someone deserving, you can find out more and nominate them here.

Supporting nonprofits such as Shellback Tech is just one way to give back to our veterans and first responders. Even a little bit goes a long way.

“From conception to execution, Shellback Tech charities was something that has been a thrill ride of amazing people, gestures, and pc builds. I could have never done any of it without the support of awesome people and companies who believed in our mission. Thank you so much for everything —Travis Peacock."

Get to Know the Author:

Daniel Waugh is a content writer. He is passionate about technology and the outdoors and enjoys merging the two. 

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