locker room

A veteran lineup

Des Moines prepares to host 24th National Veterans Golden Age Games

Des Moines hosts a bevy of sports and recreational competitions on a yearly basis, but rarely does the city host an event intended for veterans. That will change this month, as nearly 900 veterans will travel from all over the United States to participate in the 24th Annual National Veterans Golden Age Games (NVGAG).

“The Games are a wonderful event not only to honor the veterans, but to also showcase the city, its great people and the many things to do,” said Dewayne Vaughan, event director. “Des Moines has a great sports history, and this event will just add to it.”

Hosted by the Veterans Affairs (VA) and Central Iowa Health Care System, the Games run from May 26 to 31 and is open to all U.S. military veterans ages 55 and older. Many of the competitors served during World War II and the Korean War, but the highest number competing is Vietnam era veterans. Participants must also receive care at a Department of VA medical facility. The first NVGAG took place in 1985 in Albany, Ga., with 115 competitors representing VA medical facilities across the United States. Over the years, the event has been held in cities such as Dallas, Houston, Topeka, Los Angeles and Indianapolis, and in 2009, approximately 700 veterans participated. Last year’s attendance qualified the event as one of the largest of the VA’s six rehabilitation special events.

This year’s events will feature 14 competitions including air rifle, golf, shot put, bowling, swimming, bicycling, croquet, table tennis and more in ambulatory, wheelchair and visually-impaired divisions. Competitions and events will be held in various locations including the Iowa Events Center, Blank Park Golf Course, Drake University, Southeast Polk High School, Walker-Johnson Park and Prairie Meadows.

“Being and staying active is critical to living a quality life,” said Lisa Christie, local host coordinator. “And it’s especially important for the older generations to stay involved.

Vaughan agreed.

“Keeping them active and involved is a direct correlation to extending their lives,” he said. “We have several veterans in their 90s attending this year, and that’s a considerable increase in age compared to in years past.”

This year’s event is also a qualifying event for the National Senior Games. Participants who earn gold, silver or bronze medals in certain events have the opportunity to compete in the national event, which will take place in Houston, Texas, in 2011. In 2008, more than 370 competitors qualified for the 2009 National Senior Games in San Francisco, Calif.

“The incentive is there to play well,” Christie said. “Some of the veterans practice year round to be at their best during the Games. In a sense, there’s a lot on the line. They don’t want to lose.”

While competitiveness and participation have increased over the years, the camaraderie and sense of community year-in and year-out is what makes each NVGAG special.

“The veterans really like being a part of the event,” Vaughan said. “For many, it’s the highlight of their year. They enjoy each other’s company, and it’s really a unique experience.”


Locker Room note: 3XWrestling will present “Over the Top” feature the fifth Annual Gauntlet for the Gold on Friday, May 7 at the Des Moines Social Club, 1408 Locust St. Bouts begin at 7:30 p.m. and will include a “Loser Leaves Town” match, live women’s wrestling and two title matches. Advance tickets are $12 for adults, $6 for children ages 4 to 10 and are free for ages 3 and under. Adult tickets are $15 at the door. Purchase tickets at Jay’s CD and Hobby, 5921 S.E. 14th St. Visit CV


Caption: Bicycling is just one of 14 events that will draw approximately 900 veterans to this year’s National Veterans Golden Age Games. Photo courtesy of National Veterans Golden Age Games

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