Veterans Olympics a chance for friendly competition


by Mike McLenna


Posted on September 19, 2009 at 9:19 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 14 at 4:32 PM

BOISE -- They have served our country in some of terrifying moments.

And Saturday those local heroes gathered for a little fun and friendly competition.

The participants range in age and have varying physical abilities, but that didn't stop any of them from doing their best in this year's Veterans Olympics.

"I think they go back in their mind," said Phil Hawkins, the Veterans Olympics organizer. "They go back to high school days and 'I'm back in the games again, I'm competing again.'"

The participants were happy to show off their prowess at the various events. ?

"On volleyball, I got past the white line which is about halfway across the field," said Patrick Taylor, one of the contestants. "The atmosphere and people are great."

Veterans get chance to show off their game skills

The event is also an opportunity to introduce the younger generation to veterans.

"This is a great opportunity to marry up former heroes to active duty heroes to the young kids to kind of know what it is that these people have gone through," said Tom Ressler, the Veterans Program supervisor. "They love to tell their stories."

"I'm helping out with the Veterans Olympics. You'll hear so many stories from them," said Airman Pfc. McClure.

"They enjoy the opportunity of being able to tell their stories," Hawkins said.

The stories ranged from close calls with enemy fire and personal experiences. But the event mainly focused on the games and the fun atmosphere.

"They'll make an effort today to do the very best they can because they got cheerleaders, they got escorts, they got all kinds of folks helping them," Hawkins said. "You see the smile on their face and (see them) look around to see if their buddies are watching as they kick that soccer ball, or hit that ball off the tee, or shoot a basket, or cast a line into a ring?to see how far they can cast."

"I've just played like there was a fish out there," Taylor said of the casting competition. "All I was getting was grass."

"If this was the first time they've ever been here, they are saying what an awesome event it is and they'll be back." Ressler said.

Participants included 130 veterans who reside at the Idaho State Veteran's Home and 100 veterans from the VA Medical Center.