Farewell St. Louis
787 Veterans age 55 and older, from 40 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands came to St. Louis, “the Gateway to the West” to compete in the 26th National Veterans Golden Age Games.
“Well, I went to the Games in Hawaii last year, the 25th Games and I had the time of my life,” Air Force Veteran Janet Escobedo said. “I hadn’t thrown the discus since 1984 when I was in the Air Force.”
From far and wide, Veterans come to compete in 15 different sports within seven different age groups to prove that getting older in no way means having to slow down.
“When I went back then I was very much more involved in exercising then I was when I came the first time,” Air Force Veteran Loretta Young said. “My overall life really changed quite a bit after talking with many of the Veterans who had come last year and then this year too.”
Hosted by the VA St. Louis Healthcare System, this year’s Games showcased a variety of different sporting venues in and around the metro area.
Horseshoes, a very popular event at the Games, took place at the finest pitching arena in the country. Veterans were challenged, at the Quail Ridge Horseshoe Hall of Fame, pitching into a pit of clay rather than more commonly used sand.
Cyclists sped down the track at Gateway Motorsports Park, where dragsters often burn rubber, and the NASCAR like atmosphere and the long straight-away inspired athletes to achieve some of their fastest times.
At St. Louis University Medical Field the sport of javelin made its long awaited debut as the 15th competitive event at the National Veterans Golden Age Games.
“My practices are usually five days a week and I work daily in the afternoons,” Army Veteran Alfred Gutierrez said. “And I practice the discus and shot put and it’s going pretty well.”
The Golden Age Games may only take place one week a year, but the competition is about much more than that. It’s about going home and training hard and living that active, healthy lifestyle throughout the year so when they return they can be better than they were the year before.
“Oh, it’s a fantastic place to keep active, to keep my body moving,” Army Veteran Jim Toohig said.
It’s all a part of the VA’s National Sports Programs and Special Events Office idea of Mission: Redefined. It means that just because you’re a Veteran doesn’t mean your mission has ended, instead it’s been redefined and events like the Golden Age Games give Veterans the opportunity to focus their goals and lead healthier active lives.
Fred & Jay Trumblett/Father and Son
“We have a lot of opportunities to exercise and prepare for the events. It’s a good reason for us to take our medications, stay on track and live a healthy lifestyle so we can come out here and compete with a group like this,” Jay Trumblett said, who attended with his father Marine Corps Veteran Fred Trumblett.
Now that the 26th Games have come to a close each competitor has a whole year to take the lessons they learned, and train for the next completion.