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06-22-04, 10:30 AM
Veterans Golden Age Games Set for the San Joaquin Valley

WASHINGTON (June 22, 2004) -- From the East Coast to the West, more than 500
"golden age" veterans will gather in Fresno, Calif., in July for the
nation's largest sporting event for senior military veterans.

The 18th National Veterans Golden Age Games, a national sports and
recreational competition sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs
(VA), will take place July 18-23 at the Fresno Convention Center and other
area venues.

Events at the games are open to all U.S. military veterans age 55 or older
who are receiving care at any VA medical facility. Hosted by VA's Central
California Health Care System, the games have competition in swimming,
bicycling, horseshoes, bowling, croquet and a pentathlon (softball hit,
discus, shot put, basketball free throw and air guns).

"Like other Americans working to improve their quality of life through
increased physical activity, these men and women have their own fountain of
youth," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony J. Principi. "The
National Veterans Golden Age Games bring together veterans who landed at
Normandy, POWs from Korea and Purple Heart recipients from Vietnam. Anyone
who has ever attended the games and seen the esprit de corps among the
veterans knows this event is an important part of their lives."

The athletes compete in open and wheelchair divisions in specific age
groups. Although most are veterans of World War II and the Korean War,
increasing numbers of Vietnam-era veterans are participating in this annual
nationwide competition.

Joining long-term co-sponsors VA and the Veterans of Foreign Wars for the
first time as a co-sponsor is Veterans Canteen Service (VCS).

"Veterans Canteen Service is proud to be one of the sponsors of the National
Veterans Golden Age Games. These competitors reflect the courage,
commitment and determination they demonstrated during their military
service," said Jim Donahoe, VCS national director.

"The veterans who participate in the games send a clear message that
exercise, fitness and a competitive spirit can help to defy the negative
effects of age, injury or illness," said Edward S. Banas Sr.,
commander-in-chief of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. "These games provide
inspiration to countless Americans who seek to live a healthy and active
life."

The event begins with a gala opening ceremony at 7 p.m. on Sunday, July 18,
in the exhibit hall of the convention center. Festivities include a musical
salute to veterans by singer Lee Greenwood, a color guard, a parade of flags
from each participating state and a ceremonial lighting of the torch.

For the first time this year, the National Veterans Golden Age Games will
serve as a qualifier for the National Senior Olympics, to be held June 3-8,
2005, in Pittsburgh. The National Senior Olympics is a community-based
member of the United States Olympic Committee and recognizes senior U.S.
athletes in several age-groups.

Ken Peterson, a 62-year-old Army veteran and multi-year competitor in the
games from Toledo, Ohio, has overcome three bouts with cancer, undergoing
both radiation and chemotherapy treatments. Peterson believes that staying
active and involved with sports helped his recovery. "It saved my life," he
said. "Being active helps you both physically and emotionally."

A leader in geriatric care, VA offers a spectrum of health care services to
veterans. Nearly 65,000 veterans will receive long-term care this year
through inpatient VA or state veterans home programs. More than 90 percent
of VA's medical centers also provide non-institutional long-term care.

For more information about the National Veterans Golden Age Games and other
VA national rehabilitation programs, visit VA's web site at
www.va.gov/vetevent/gag/2004 <http://www.va.gov/vetevent/gag/2004> .


Media Inquiries:
* Jenny Shafer Tankersley, VA Public Affairs (757) 728-3450
* David Phillips, Fresno VAMC Public Affairs (559) 225-6100, ext.
5364
* Joe Davis, VFW Public Relations (202) 543-2239