I had never heard of the National Veterans Wheelchair Games until this year, when I began interning at VA this summer. It seemed like a cool concept, created and brought to life like so many other VA sponsored events, like the seasonal sports clinics or the Golden Age Games. Basically, they are meant to support and give back to those who have sacrificed so much for their country.
The annual Games are the largest wheelchair competition in the country, and this year, they take place in Richmond, Virginia from June 25 to June 30. Fortunate as I may be to work with the very people who help make all this happen, I still wondered, “But what does this mean for Veterans? How does it help?”
I found out yesterday when I watched a ten-minute video provided by the Paralyzed Veterans of America of the 2011 Games held in Pittsburgh. I spent a few minutes contemplating how I would describe what I saw in this section, because all the laughter and cheering from the sidelines was almost proverbial. The faces of the Vets were victorious and determined something that surprised me at first.
The Games aren’t just about who is the strongest and fastest Veteran athlete, although individual brawn is duly celebrated. It’s about the sense of camaraderie built among Veterans. It’s about never taking the clichéd ‘eye off the prize,’ but also remembering and commemorating those who helped us get there.
I think we should all take a lesson from our Veterans and learn that either we can do things all by ourselves, or be brave and seek out the support of fellow comrades. I know which one I would choose, and I have our Veterans to thank for that.
Throughout the Gamers next week, be on the lookout for photos and videos of the 32nd Annual National Veterans Wheelchair Games on our Facebook and Twitter accounts. And check out the photos above from the 1981 National Veterans Wheelchair Games provided by the folks at the Richmond VA Medical Center.
Kaitlyn Borysiewicz is currently an intern at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and student at Christopher Newport University.