Inside the Gates: Military veterans flock to Anchorage for 2019 Golden Age Games
For the fist time in its history, the National Veterans Golden Age Games are being hosted in Alaska.
On Wednesday, with the help of an Alaska Army National Guard Black Hawk helicopter and pararescuemen with the Alaska Air National Guard, the Golden Age Games torch arrived Alaskan style, in a big and bold way.
"We're Alaska," Alaska Veterans Affair Director of Public Affairs Sam Hudson said. "We want the veterans to know that we love them and we're going to have fun."
For the dozens of VA staff, volunteers and veterans who made it out to Moose Run Golf Course on Wednesday morning, that's exactly what they got. Retired Navy Chief Petty Officer Bill Weinhardt is one of the hundreds of veterans making their way to Anchorage this week for the event.
"It's a chance to get away from Hawaii," Weinhardt said. "So we love getting off the island as much as we can and to me, I've never been to Alaska, born and raised in the south side of Chicago, so to me, this is a place that I've always wanted to come. Why not make it the first veterans games for me?"
It's a special trip for Weinhardt. Not only is it is first Golden Age Games, but Tuesday was his birthday. He's also not the only member of the family making the trip. His sister-in-law Crissy Gayagas, a retired Army Colonel is competing in her second Golden Age Games along with her father Ed, who started the family tradition eight years ago in Honolulu.
The goal of the Golden Age Games is for veterans, ages 55 or over, to compete in various events within their respected divisions, all in an effort to promote physical activity and VA therapy programs.
Gayagas will be participating in swimming, track and bowling with her dad — something he wasn't sure would be possible.
"I was recently classified as 100% disabled due to Agent Orange from Vietnam and I've just about overcome that," Ed said.
Ed now has the opportunity many fathers wish for: to compete on the same team with family members. This year he has his daughter and son-in-law, but the trio is already on the recruiting trail for next year's event, trying to get more family members in on the fun.
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