At age 87, Navy Veteran and athlete Doris Merrill doesn’t feel old. In fact, the two gold and two silver medals she racked up during the 30th National Veterans Wheelchair Games last summer prove she’s far from slowing down.
Merrill, who served in naval intelligence for the WAVES during World War II, is the oldest female athlete competing in this year’s Games.
“When I participate in the Games with everyone, I feel invigorated,” said Merrill, who lives in Nanticoke, Pa., and has attended 11 Wheelchair Games all over the country and in Puerto Rico.
She’s won many medals—mostly gold—an achievement she attributes to her coach and son, Paul. Better known by his nickname, Pepper, Paul brings her to all the Games and is her No. 1 fan.This year, Merrill will be competing in five events, including what she describes as her best one: bowling. She looks forward to the motorized wheelchair rally every year, she said.
“If I don’t win, it will be alright with me,” she said. “I feel joy watching others win.”
Merrill is most excited to see all the friends she’s made over the years. Spending time with her comrades and cheering them on are two of her favorite things to do at the Games.
“When I see everyone, my heart just jumps,” she said. “Just being here, being with people like myself, is a bridge to the walking world. I really love being here.”
Amanda Wilczynski, Writer-Editor, VA Butler Healthcare
Veterans Crisis Line:
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Last reviewed/updated March 26, 2014