Strategy and mental focus are the keys to winning at one of the most intense competitions at the National Veterans Golden Age Games … checkers! Watching the opponents’ moves, and reacting to their strategy while still implementing your own require the focus that is often therapeutic to Veterans dealing with PTSD, traumatic brain injury and other wounds of war.
“They experience recovery and healing without even recognizing that is what it is (in games like checkers),” stated Karen Wait, Occupational Therapist at the St. Louis VA Medical Center, host site of the 2012 Games.
It allows Veterans to refocus energy from disabilities , and although the competition is one on one, it keeps Veterans engaged in communication with one another. The mental motivation places both players in a game with a common bond. It’s a small piece of the bigger picture of the Games.
Frances Castro, a former Marine from Lockport, New York has competed for six years. She served two tours in Okinawa, Japan and due to her service connected disabilities, is limited to competing in checkers and dominoes. Before the game begins, she is a bit nervous but loves playing. She looks forward to the Games every year, seeing old friends and making new ones. “I try my best,” said Castro, “Not everyone can win. It’s about sportsmanship.”
Many of the 122 Veterans competing in checkers know the sport – like life - takes the right moves and for them being part of the Golden Age Games is key to their strategy.