“Chess Vets” brings Central Texas veterans together in community

Chess Vets in Central Texas brings community to veterans.
Published: Jul. 4, 2023 at 6:45 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) - Community. It’s what most of us long for.

For retired Navy veteran Michael Lenox, he and his wife Lia find community through the game of chess.

Michael and Lia started a group in Central Texas called Chess Vets. The organization aims to not only connect veterans with each other, it also aims to help them recover.

“I had a major stroke, put me in the hospital for a couple months at the VA hospital up in Washington state,” said Michael Lenox. “I lost (a chunk) of my brain about the size of a softball, and actually chess was one of the things that helped me recover.”

Michael’s wife noticed the impact the game of chess had on her husband, prompting her to start a club.

“Once he had a stroke and he was just in that daze and couldn’t focus and couldn’t clear his mind. He started playing chess with a friend and the lightbulb went on, and then everything was kind of clear for him.”

The group invites veterans of all branches to Black Rifle Coffee in Temple and Killeen every week to play chess, a game that many military members can relate to.

“Chess is a game where you have to think,” said Elvis Servellon, who is currently active duty at Fort Cavazos. “Every action has a reaction, and every move has several different outcomes that could be a possibility. The reality is, once I make any move, either in chess or on the field, a reaction will happen and I have to be ready to react to that appropriately.”

The game is not just about moving pieces strategically, but it can also help people mentally, especially those who struggle with PTSD.

“Most veterans, coming back and having PTSD, they want to be isolated,” said Lia. “They want to stay secluded so they feel safe because there’s so much that’s going on in their mind. Who knows what they experienced out there that they’re bringing back with them.”

Though, sharing these struggles with one another is somewhat of a lost art.

“There’s like some kind of imaginary net that doesn’t allow soldiers to branch out and be able to gain the community and trust,” said Servellon. “But being able to come out here and share the war stories, or times of hardships with other people, it gives you a different perspective.”

Since they came together in 2015, Chess Vets has taught the game of chess to tens of thousands through their gatherings as well as their YouTube channel. They hope to spread the word about how this game is changing the lives of those who serve our country.

“A lot of veterans don’t want to go to a government facility for treatment,” said Lia. So this is a nice way to get them out socially, improve their lives, and maybe improve the gap of relationships.”