The 6th annual Valor Games Southwest took place Sept. 23-26 in San Antonio. The Valor Games are an introductory, Paralympic-style event that allow Warrior Transition units and adaptive athlete veterans to compete in several types of events. This year’s VGSW events included archery, rowing, power lifting, table tennis, cycling, power soccer, Boccia, and air guns.
“We break them down into different categories, so it’s more of an even playing field,” said Jeremy Velez, the Director of the Archery portion. Participants can have physical and mental disabilities and they are broken up into categories based on what disability or injury they have, he said.
Joseph Smith, a participant in the games from Atlanta, stated sometimes there are not enough participants with the same category so they have to compete against the main category. For example, Smith is visually impaired and for one of the events he participated in, he had to compete against those without visual impairment since there were not enough to warrant a full VI category.
“I have competed in three events so far,” Smith said. “Unfortunately, there are not enough visually impaired so I have to deal with the sighted competitors. It’s going to be very interesting, but I aim to win.”
Velez stated military personnel have very competitive spirits and don’t know when to quit, so sports and adaptive sports is the perfect outlet. Velez himself started with the first Valor Games and has since become a director with VGSW.
He continued to say participating in events like Valor Games can benefit veterans and wounded warriors, acting as therapy in and of itself.
“A lot of them use it as their therapy,” he said. “Whether it’s a physical therapy or a behavorial health therapy; it’s just a way for them to come out, compete, get integrated with the community and showcase what they can do.”
“When I’m here, seeing the different generations of veterans, you get a concept of how long this has been going on” Smith, who did 5 years Active Army and 3 years Army Reserve, said. “You don’t imagine all these people were in the military, some at the same time, some years ahead of us- it’s just a whole fellowship.”
Smith competed in 4 events during VGSW- tandem cycling, archery, rowing and Boccia and took home multiple gold medals.
“Each branch of service has an adaptive sports coordinator or an outing coordinator and they typically offer all kinds of events,” said Velez. “The warrior just has to go out there and ask, hey I want to try this.”
Velez also mentioned participators do not have to have any experience in the sport to join an event like Valor Games. The Games will even rent equipment if needed, as well as coach.
“This is introductory to those adaptive sports. We have quite a few people that have never shot a bow,” he said. “It’s a little coaching and a little competition at the same time.”
Valor Games takes place in multiple locations across the United States throughout the year.
“We are here to have fun, number one,” Smith said. “We have a little competition, but the espirit de corps here with all these other great vets is wonderful and you dont quit … of course – It’s just fun!”