Coast Guard Hosts Annual Valor Games
The fifth annual Valor Games took place Friday, June 2, to Monday, June 5 on Coast Guard Island.
For the last four years Coast Guard Island has hosted the event. The event brings together disabled veterans and active service duty members to engage in the three days of Paralympic sport competitions.
The environment was spirited with supportive cheers and gracious displays of sportsmanship, perseverance and patriotism. Special appearances from Medal of Honor Recipient James A. Taylor and Paralympic Bronze Medalist Angela Madsen to former 49er’s Super Bowl Champion Dennis Brown and some of the original Rosie the Riveters made the event even more notable.
The shared gratitude for community awareness of Veteran Affairs resonated clearly. Angela Madsen, who also holds eight Guinness World Records and is decorated as being the first of two women to row across the Indian Ocean, attributes adapted sports to being a prominent part of her recovery process. While the competitions were taking place, sports clinics were in session and demonstrations were held for veterans and event spectators in various adapted sports such as wheelchair basketball, wheelchair tennis, badminton and boccia. This year, Madsen participated as a field coach and was tasked with mentoring athletes in the shot put event along with other field competitions.
Victor Backer, part of the team that organized the event, was taken aback by the exploits of athletes in the archery event. “We had a blind archer and another participant without arms and legs who just shoots with his mouth,” said Becker. “Both got bullseyes all the time.”
This year 78 male and 32 female athletes competed in the games. The opening ceremony was held on Friday. Saturday’s competitions included powerlifting, archery and rowing. On Sunday the athletes participated in cycling, a biathlon — a sport that involves rifle sharpshooting — swimming and a paratriathlon. Monday witnessed field event competitions and the closing ceremony.
At the conclusion of each sporting event, the top-performing athletes were awarded with Valor Games medals.
However, it was evident that none of the athletes present were doing this for the medals. Instead, the Valor Games symbolizes the strength through community that invigorates and empowers these veterans not only through their individual competitions, but also through the baby steps in returning to a civilian lifestyle.
U.S. Coast Guard Captain Simone Adair, who has been an annual participant in the Valor Games, said she was gracious for the once-a-year opportunity to reunite as, “All of my friends are here and we inspire each other.”
Army Veteran Shanda Taylor-Bond also shares the same sentiments as she tells the courageous story of bouncing back and reclaiming her life through her family’s unwavering support and through the endearing relationships she built from the veteran community.
The Far West Wheelchair Athletic Association organized the games. The association has provided sport and recreation opportunities to individuals with physical disabilities for more than 40 years. Funding from major corporate sponsors and a grant from the Department of Veteran Affairs were critical to the success of the games.