History of the National Veterans Golden Age Games

Celebrating its 29th year, the National Veterans Golden Age Games offer sports and recreational competitive events for Veterans 55 years of age and older. It is the largest sports and recreation competition for this age group of military Veterans in the world! The Games continue to serve as a showcase for the rehabilitation value that wellness and fitness provide in the lives of older Americans.

The National Veterans Golden Age Games are an outgrowth of the historic involvement in geriatric programs by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). For many years, VA has put major emphasis on health and fitness with the goal of Veterans living healthier, longer lives. Many of the events began as recreational activities at VA hospitals and nursing home care units across the country. Inspired by the health and fitness movement for America’s senior citizens, the Games extend that concept to our nation’s aging Veterans. In 1985, the first National Veterans Golden Age Games took place in Albany, Georgia, with 115 competitors representing VA medical facilities across the United States.

A “fountain of youth” for the rapidly aging Veteran population, the Games provide a multi-event sports and therapeutic recreation program for eligible Veterans receiving care at any VA medical facility. It is the premier senior adaptive rehabilitation program in the United States, and the only national seniors’ program designed to improve the quality of life for all older Veterans, including those with a wide range of abilities and disabilities. This event truly reflects VA’s mission – to provide quality programs and health care for America’s aging Veteran population. It has become one of the most progressive and adaptive rehabilitative senior sports programs in the United States and the world.

Over the years, competitive events at the National Veterans Golden Age Games have been adapted to meet the specific needs of the participants. The Games have separate age groups and gender divisions. Additionally, because many Veterans also face medical challenges, events were added for those who use wheelchairs and those who have visual impairments. To accommodate the varying degrees of physical conditioning, motor and cognitive skills of the participants, basic competition rules were adapted. The modification of rules and use of adaptive equipment in many events allow non-ambulatory and visually impaired Veterans to participate, in separate divisions where needed and with ambulatory and sighted Veterans when possible. This has made the National Veterans Golden Age Games a truly adaptive therapeutic sports competition that has become a model for other local, state and national senior sports events.

Since 2004, the National Veterans Golden Age Games have been a qualifier for the National Senior Games, a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee. Through this partnership, gold, silver and bronze medalists in certain events have the opportunity to compete further, among America’s elite senior athletes.

This outstanding program has grown from 115 participants in its first year to more than 800 in 2018, making it the largest of VA’s six rehabilitation special events. For the past several years, the aging Vietnam Veteran population has entered the Games in greater numbers each year, making up the largest group of competitors by period of service. By age group, the over-70 age categories are now the largest.

Since the Games began, Veterans have competed in cities across the United States. A listing of event locations and hosting VA medical facilities follows.

National Veterans Golden Age Games: 1985-2020

Year Location Host VA Medical Facilities
1985 Albany, Georgia Atlanta and Dublin VA Medical Centers
1987 Ft. Lyon, Colorado Ft. Lyon VA Medical Center
1988 Marion, Indiana Marion VA Medical Center
1990 Sherman, Texas Sam Rayburn Memorial Veterans Center, Bonham
1991 St. Petersburg, Florida Bay Pines VA Medical Center
1992 Ypsilanti, Michigan Ann Arbor VA Medical Center
1993 Johnson City, Tennessee Mountain Home VA Medical Center
1994 Lisle, Illinois Edward Hines, Jr. Veterans Hospital
1995 Dallas, Texas Dallas VA Medical Center
1996 Riverside, California Jerry L. Pettis VA Medical Center, Loma Linda
1997 Leavenworth, Kansas Dwight D. Eisenhower VA Medical Center
1998 Leesburg, Virginia VA Capitol Network
1999 Geneva, New York Canandaigua VA Medical Center
2000 Topeka, Kansas VA Heartland Network
2001 Duncanville, Texas VA North Texas Health Care System
2002 Los Angeles, California VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System
2003 Orono, Maine Togus VA Medical Center and Regional Office
2004 Fresno, California VA Central California Health Care System
2005 Norman, Oklahoma Oklahoma City VA Medical Center
2006 Hampton, Virginia Hampton VA Medical Center
2007 Houston, Texas Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center
2008 Indianapolis, Indiana Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center
2009 Birmingham, Alabama Birmingham VA Medical Center
2010 Des Moines, Iowa VA Central Iowa Health Care System
2011 Honolulu, Hawaii VA Pacific Islands Healthcare System and the VA Sierra Pacific Network
2012 St. Louis, Missouri St. Louis VA Medical Center
2013 Buffalo, New York VA Western New York Healthcare System
2014 Fayetteville, Arkansas Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks
2015 Omaha, Nebraska VA Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System
2016 Detroit, Michigan John D. Dingell VA
2017 Biloxi, Mississippi Gulf Coast Health Care System
2018 Albuquerque, New Mexico New Mexico VA Health Care System
2019 Anchorage, Alaska Alaska VA Health Care System


Since 1990, one participant has been chosen each year for being the “Most Inspirational” person to compete. That Veteran exhibits the qualities of fitness, sportsmanship and competitive skill. In 1995, the name of this award was changed to the “George Gangi Inspiration Award,” in honor of the late George Gangi, a participant at the Games in Dallas that year. Winners of the award, to date, are as follows:

  • 1990 – Ivan Kornutik
  • 1991 – Theodore “Ted” Trent
  • 1992 – Gus Schaefer
  • 1993 – Landon “Chili” Chilcutt
  • 1994 – William “Howard” Kennett
  • 1995 – William “Sad Sam” Franks
  • 1996 – Alice Barszcz
  • 1997 – Ed Viola
  • 1998 – Donald Mullett
  • 1999 – Houston Brumit
  • 2000 – Beverly Smith
  • 2001 – Clifford Junkins
  • 2002 – Adrien Mohammed
  • 2003 – Kenneth A. Peterson
  • 2004 – Roy Gantt
  • 2005 – Chester Golembiewski
  • 2006 – Charles Wynder
  • 2007 – Frank Renteria
  • 2008 – Ira Walton
  • 2009 – Robert Blatnik
  • 2010 – William Trumbly
  • 2011 – Salvatore Badolato
  • 2012 – Wayne Field
  • 2013 – Robert Sparkes
  • 2014 – John Martinez
  • 2015 – Edward Gagnon
  • 2016 – Charles “Chuck” Ackerman
  • 2017 – Ricky Facen
  • 2018 – Henry Lee Preston
  • 2019 – Richard Olwig