MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — In June, 46 medals came home with Golden Age Games’ Team Martinsburg.
The team, 24 strong with members ranging from 55 to 82 years-old, traveled to Anchorage, Alaska to compete against 100 other groups from across America.
The annual event is described as “the premier senior adaptive rehabilitation program in the United States, and the only national multi-event sports and recreational seniors’ competition program designed to improve the quality of life for all older Veterans, including those with a wide range of abilities and disabilities”.
The activity provides a range of high and low impact sports like track and field, swimming, cycling or table tennis and shuffle board.
Of the 46 medals Team Martinsburg earned, 15 were gold, 15 silver, 16 bronze and 20 top 8 ribbons.
“The goal of the program is to promote an active and healthy lifestyle in Veterans over the age of 55,” said Martinsburg VA Recreational Coordinator Darren Yowell. “The program as its designed and as we use it is a tool to promote year-round wellness. That is physical and mental wellness. But also social interaction and being a part of something bigger than yourself.”
Yowell was recently a guest with Team Martinsburg Athlete Ben Welch on ‘Panhandle Live’ heard on MetroNews affiliates WEPM & WCST: The Panhandle News Network.
Welch served in special forces for nearly 20 years. He experienced PTSD upon arriving home.
“I was just really upset. I was a mad, mean guy when I first got here. I’d seen a lot of death and destruction during the war and I was just sick. This program really helped me and helped my family. Because I didn’t even want to be around my kids or my wife. I was just suffering from a lot of different medical issues. This is the first time I’m actually in a loving, caring relationship. It’s been a big help in that kind of way.”
In Alaska, Welch earned a medal in all seven events he competed in. Activities included the 100 and 200 meter dashes, free-throws, pickleball and discus.
Yowell said the group will take a couple of months off before starting training again in August.
The 2020 Golden Age Games will be held in Madison, Wisconsin June 22-27, according to the VA’s website.