740 Veterans compete at the National Veterans Golden Age Games

740 Veterans from 40 states gathered in Fayetteville, Arkansas for the National Veteran Golden Age Game’s opening ceremony on June 29, 2014.

14554260213_e818bff49a_zThe 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.

Veterans from Illinois cheer as their state is announced.

Veterans from Illinois cheer as their state is announced.

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.

740 Veterans from 40 states attended the opening ceremony.

740 Veterans from 40 states attended the opening ceremony.

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


Tim Hudak

  joined the VA in December 2013 and is on the Veterans Experience Office team. Tim, a Chicago-land native enlisted in the Marine Corps straight out of high school. As an intelligence analyst he deployed to Al Anbar province, Iraq with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 363 in 2006 and 2008. After the Marine Corps, Tim used the GI Bill to earn a degree in Intelligence Studies from Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pa., and co-founded the university’s first student Veteran organization. Tim is active in many Veteran organizations.


  1. Bill Hileman    

    This article and others like it are great and encouraging, but NONE of them ever tell you how to become directly involved as a participant! Also, I see almost nothing covering the table tennis. Plenty of pictures of nearly all the other events but nothing of table tennis. How do I get involved in this? Does my VIST coordinator know about it?

    1. Yvonne Levardi    

      Bill – visit this page: http://www.va.gov/opa/speceven/gag/ and it gives you information about participating!

    2. Jordan Schupbach    

      Hey Bill – we’re posting all of our photos from the event on Flickr here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/veteransaffairs/sets/72157645428584835/. There’s even some table tennis shots in there!

  2. Owens Earl Jr    

    I hope in that meeting the veteran had a chance to ask at lease one question being free dental for all veteran not just for some but for all horonable discharge veteran

  3. victor m. zavala    

    I am 55 and never heard of this, is there a membership to this Games. I like the Question that Mr. Ownes Earl Jr say on Free dental, I had my dental work done while on Active Duty and now my teeth are broken and cap as well and my VA will not fix them unless you are 100% disable…I believe and stand with Mr. Owens on this issue, if the military did it while you served they should continue to fix them all if they become broken ect….its like a claim, you proof it happen during active duty same should be with Dental. Retired SFC Zavala Victor M.

  4. Kelli Grace    

    For 5 years, along with my family, I have had the honor to be a non-VA volunteer at the games. It has been an inspiring experience, meeting veterans from WWII, Korean, Vietnam, Desert Storm (1) and peace time services. Learning history from those that were there, humbled by their stories of courage, strength, survival and service and how the military helped make them the warriors they still are today. I am constantly impressed by the athleticism, attitude and honor among them, hearing the friendly banter about which branch of service is the best, hearing comments about Squids, Jar-heads and pigeons. When the competition starts, everyone cheers for every athletic, every American. My favorite time is after the events of the day are finished, and meals served, we sit around together and talk about the day, events and life. Then someone will pull out a guitar and start singing and soon everyone joins in. I would highly recommend that every eligible veteran come to the games, the Ohio volunteers will be looking for you!

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