From July 17th to the 22nd, veterans from all over the United States will come together in Cincinnati, Ohio to participate in the 37th National Veterans Wheelchair Games (NVWG). In the words of George W. Bush, “[t]hese games showcase the courage, resilience, and talent of patriots who paid a dear price for our freedom.” The veterans participating in the games are living examples of American exceptionalism not only for their willingness to put themselves in harm’s way to protect all that makes this nation special, but also for surmounting physical hardship to become pillars of strength and fighting spirit in our communities.
According to the NVWG’s website, the games developed from the Department of Veterans Affairs’ use of wheelchair sports as a type of therapy for veterans during the aftermath of World War II and on. The first official games were hosted in 1981 in Richmond, Virginia with a total of 74 veterans participating as athletes. Throughout the years, the participation levels have grown, so much so that now the number of athletes is closer to 600. Moreover, the success of the games is not limited to the United States, but turned international with the inclusion of twelve British veterans who were invited to take part in the 1987 games. This resulted in the twelve forming their own sports group called the British Ex-Services Wheelchair Sports Association and even going on to host the International Veterans Wheelchair Games in Great Britain multiple times during the 90’s.
The goal of the NVWG is to “work to empower Veterans to be more active and healthy in their daily lives by getting them involved in sports and recreation programs highlighting fitness, social networking, and community involvement. Sports and recreation reinforce critical values necessary for health while combating the risk of isolation, depression, and other factors associated with health.” However, the benefits of the games are not confined to the veterans participating. Children, like 8 year old Gideon, living with conditions requiring wheelchair assistance are provided with inspirational examples of adults thriving and enjoying life undeterred by their disabilities. For this and their lasting sacrifice to the nation, I would like to thank and wish all the athletes of the 37th National Veterans Wheelchair Games good luck this week!