About 675 participants took part in the 35th National Veterans Wheelchair Games this year with games stretching from Dallas, Fort Worth to as far as Ellis County for Friday’s closing event.
The games began June 21 and ended Friday at the Ellis County Sportsman Club, the host site of a trap shooting competition.
“I think that’s the biggest turnout we’ve ever had as far as the games go in the 35 years we’ve been doing this,” Andy MacDonald, Associate Director of Shooting Sports for Paralyzed Veterans of America said. “Between all the different events, swimming, basketball, water rugby, air rifle and pistol, trap shooting, slalom, super G. It’s been great this year. It’s been great.”
The Department of Veteran Affairs co-hosted the games along with the Paralyzed Veterans of America.
MacDonald, who previously served in the U.S. Army, joined the Paralyzed Veterans of America in May 2006 and said the games have gotten better each year he’s competed.
The National Veterans Wheelchair Games began in 1985 and have worked each year to bring together different Paralyzed Veterans of America chapters across the country and overseas.
Michael Muller took part in the trap shooting event Friday after traveling from Tucson, Arizona.
He said it was a fun experience and had never competed in trap shooting prior to the wheelchair games.
“It’s fun. It’s a whole different set of skills for me,” Muller said. “Being military, obviously I have a lot of skill with a pistol and rifle. But shotgun obviously is a whole different ballgame. It’s more dynamic. More motion involved.”
Muller previously served in the Air Force and said it’s a blast to compete in the games with fellow veterans.
“It’s like a whole bunch of people are all basically friends and having fun,” Muller said. “And if you win medals, great.”
Justin Anderson also took part in the trap shooting event, but was competing in his first year at the wheelchair games.
He said his eyes have been opened to several different sports after competing in the games.
“Just because you’re in a chair or because you have an injury that limits your mobility, you can’t let it stop you or slow you down,” Anderson said. “Each and every one of these guys that comes out here is living proof of that. We have guys from the Korean War and Vietnam all the way up through Kosovo and Bosnia and the first Gulf War all the way up to myself with Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Don Henslee operates the Ellis County Sportsman Club and said he was more than happy to work with the Paralyzed Veterans of America and allow the club to host the trap shooting event.
“We’re proud to really represent not just the county, but the whole region here with these guys to help with this,” Henslee said. “It’s a great honor for us.”
The closing ceremonies took place at the Sheraton Hotel in Dallas on Friday.
Eighteen wheelchair sports were offered in the games this year and Salt Lake City will host the games next summer, MacDonald said.