740 Veterans from 40 states gathered in Fayetteville, Arkansas for the National Veteran Golden Age Game’s opening ceremony on June 29, 2014.
The National Veterans Golden Age Games provide a multi-event sports and therapeutic recreation program for Veterans 55 years of age and older. The games’ primary objectives are wellness, health promotion and disease prevention. It is a national showcase for the preventive and therapeutic value of sports, fitness and recreation for all older Americans.
The competitive events include air rifle, bowling, cycling, field (discus, shot, javelin), golf, horseshoes, mind sports (checkers, dominoes), nine-ball, shuffleboard, swimming, table tennis and track.
Most of the Veterans arrived at the University of Arkansas campus on Saturday afternoon where they will be staying throughout the games. The excitement and camaraderie of the Veterans became apparent as they assembled before the opening ceremony. Many of these Veterans have been competing in their event for years and have formed strong bonds with each other.
The camaraderie soon turned to rivalry as each state team was introduced separately and their state’s flag was carried down the center aisle by a Boy Scout volunteer, which also prompted loud cheers.
Special guests included University of Arkansas Chancellor Dr. David Gearhart, Executive Director of Veterans Canteen Service Ray Tober, U.S. Congressman Steve Womack and Department of Veteran Affairs Assistant Secretary for Operations, Security and Preparedness Kevin Hanretta.
The Athlete’s Oath was read by long time participant Robert “Sparky” Sparkes who was also celebrating his 96th birthday, a testament to the dedication many of these Veterans have to these games.
The ceremony’s conclusion with the torch-lighting also seemed to ignite the competitive spirit in Veteran participants. These Veterans have been training for these games for the past year and have worked closely with VA recreational therapists who coach them in their events.
Many of these Veterans have received awards in service to their country from conflicts such as World War II, Korea and Vietnam, but now seek to earn medals highlighting their commitment to their personal fitness and health.
Congratulations to all the Veterans participating and good luck!
Find out more about the National Veterans Golden Age Games at: http://www.va.gov/opa/speceven/gag/index.asp