Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System
Local Veteran Wins Medals at Golden Age Games
For 74 years, World War II Veteran Douglas Vaden has been playing billiards. In 1938, he took a billiards course in Oregon and bought his first pool stick for $9.50, a significant purchase at that time.
"I bought it and took it home," said Vaden. "I was so proud. I showed it to my wife and she went right through the roof, because I was making $12 a week."
Vaden joked that the pool stick almost cost him a divorce. However, two weeks later he participated in a billiards tournament and won $25.
"I never heard another complaint about me shooting pool," he said with a laugh.
Today, the 94 year-old is not only still competing in billiards tournaments – he’s still winning them.
During May 30 – June 5, Vaden participated in the 26th National Veterans Golden Age Games in St. Louis and won a gold medal in nine-ball in the 85 and up age group. He also won a silver medal in dominoes, competed in croquet and air rifle, and also participated in a trapshooting exhibition.
Vaden, who lives in Sallisaw, was one of 787 Veterans from 40 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands, who competed in the games, which is a VA-sponsored competition for Veterans who are 55 and older and receive their health care at a VA facility. Veterans compete in age groups in events such as swimming, cycling, golf, shot-put, discus, 10-meter air rifle, table tennis, dominoes, shuffleboard, horseshoes, nine-ball, bowling, checkers and croquet.
Vaden, who receives his health care at the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center, has participated in the games during the past seven years and has won 16 medals.
"I love competition," said Vaden. "What else can you ask for?"
While Vaden loves to compete, he said the games are also an opportunity to visit a new city and take advantage of VA-sponsored tours. In St. Louis, Vaden toured the Gateway Arch and a local brewery.
"There are just so many things to do," said Vaden. "They keep you busy when you’re not competing."
However, possibly the greatest aspect of the games is the opportunity to meet new friends and spend time with other Veterans.
"I enjoy the camaraderie," said Vaden, who served in North Africa and Europe during World War II as a U.S. Army combat engineer. "Some of them you become friends with and every year you go back there’s some missing teeth as I call it, from the people that aren’t there anymore. They’ve passed on."
Vaden said he formed a friendship with a Veteran during a shot-put event a few years ago and when Vaden needed to make a trip to Alaska, the Veteran offered to drive him.
"These are the kinds of people that you meet," he said. "They’re not a passing by friend. They are real honorary, honest people and they’re great."
The 2013 National Veteran Golden Age Games will be held in Buffalo, NY, May 30 – June 4. To learn more about the games or learn how to register, visit http://www.va.gov/opa/speceven/gag/index.asp
Throughout the year, VA also sponsors the Creative Arts Festival, Summer Sports Clinic, Training-Exposure-Experience (TEE) Tournament, Wheelchair Games and Winter Sports Clinic. For more information about these special events for Veterans, visit: http://www.va.gov/adaptivesports/