Southfield (CW50) – War has always required strategy and tactics, it’s not unlike a game of chess. When service members come home from these wars, the adjustment back into civilian life can be tough on them. Dr. Scott Gruber, Chief of Staff at the John D. Dingell VA Medical Center, created a program, as a part of the Mental Health Council called Checkmates, that brings veterans together to learn and play the game of chess. This allows them to keep their minds sharp, maintain a focus of strategy and tactics, and connects them with fellow veterans as a way to bond in civilian life with ‘brothers’ who have been to war.

Detroit VA Checkmates (Photo provided by John D. Dingell VA Medical Center)

In February of 2020, the Detroit VA Team, calling themselves the Checkmates, entered the U.S. Amateur Team North tournament in Chicago. They made a name for themselves at the tournament. They also were featured in Chess Life Magazine, the most widely read chess magazine in the world. 

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After the COVID-19 pandemic started growing across the United States, Checkmates stopped meeting in person but they’ve been playing chess online. This was a transition that had been difficult for older veterans, as the the younger veterans pushed to help them adapt to the new technology of the world, so they could all play chess together.

Darryl Cornwell, a Vietnam Veteran who served from ’72 to ’74 in the U.S. Navy, is a member of Checkmates and has benefited greatly, from his experience in the program.

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Being a part of this team has helped me connect with my peers,” said Cornwell.

Community Connect Host Lisa Germani, with U.S. Navy Vietnam Veteran Darryl Cornwell

Cornwell joins Lisa Germani on Community Connect to talk about how Checkmates has helped him as a Veteran, and what the team has been up to since their tournament in February.

You can learn more at

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