NewsVoice for Veterans


"Basically it keeps me alive": Veterans prep for the Golden Age Games

Golden Age Games Training
Training Golden Age Games
Training Golden Age Games
Posted at 7:01 PM, May 22, 2024

Some veterans in Cecil County have found a new sense of self-esteem and confidence playing sports.

It's part of their training for a national competition called the Golden Age Games.

Every Tuesday morning, Army veteran Lenny McNair drives from Owings Mills to the Perry Point VA Medical Center in Cecil County. It's time to train for the Golden Age Games.

"Well, I’ll tell you what, basically, it keeps me alive," said McNair.

The national competition is for veterans 55 and older. They are training to compete against other VAs across the country. Each year is a different location.

McNair got involved in 2013 during a hard point in his life.

"When I first started this, I was so depressed. I was recovering from numerous surgeries, and I just happened to be in physical therapy, and I saw these pictures on the wall of therapy, and I asked the therapist, what are these pictures about?” said McNair.

Reluctant at first, it was a start to his journey of what would be an annual goal to compete in the national games.

Now at 76, it gives him hope.

"It's been nothing but challenges and good things since then. It's ups and downs, but I’ve won a lot of metals," said McNair.

During his Tuesday morning training, he pairs with Robbie Wyatt, who is also preparing to compete.

Wyatt was an officer and enlisted in the Army, she served 15 years.

"In 1997, I had a horrific incident in the hospital, that's what ended my service,” said Wyatt.

She was told she may never walk again, but she wasn't taking that as an answer.

With support from her family, and physical therapy, now she's competing in the Golden Age Games.

"A lot of confidence has come back. It wasn't gone, it was just sitting on the closet shelf,” said Wyatt. "For me, seeing the changes in my health both physically and mentally, also, the people I’ve met that I did not know before, we've just gained a close bond.”

The adaptive sports program at the VA is what got both of these veterans to where they are today.

Training is all year, coordinator Lauren Buckingham transforms the workout to each veteran's level.

"The beginning part of the year, I really focus on strength and conditioning versus fine-tuning their skills in whatever events they're going to be competing in,” said Buckingham, the Adaptive Sports Coordinator at the Perry Point VA Medical Center.

She said giving them a community to be a part of brings a newfound purpose.

"A lot of times, they lose that sense of purpose, and now they've re-found this purpose or new love for something that gives them a reason to get out of bed,” said Buckingham.

The competition in August is in Salt Lake City. Fourteen veterans from Maryland will be competing.