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Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

Remarks by Secretary Eric K. Shinseki

25th National Veterans Golden Age Games Opening Ceremony
Honolulu, Hawai’i
May 26, 2011

Welcome, everyone, to the 25th National Veterans Golden Age Games---the world’s largest sports and recreation event for Veteran competitors 55 years of age and older!

Let me salute all the wonderful people who’ve helped make this golden week possible:

  • Mayor [Peter] Carlisle: Thank you for welcoming us to beautiful Honolulu. Your city and county officials have been most hospitable and helpful in enabling us to organize these games. We’re honored to have you join us today.

  • To the outstanding men and women of VA’s Sierra Pacific Network and Pacific Islands Healthcare System: Thank you, all, for what you do day-in, day-out to care for our Veterans, and thank you, again, for exceeding all our expectations in so graciously and professionally staging these events.

  • To our co-sponsors, Help Hospitalized Veterans and the Veterans Canteen Service: We couldn’t do this without you! Thank you, Mike Lynch and Marilyn Iverson for your leadership and generosity.

  • To all our corporate and local sponsors, whom we formally thanked last evening: Let me just add that your generosity inspires our employees and volunteers to take on these projects. Thank you, once again.

  • To our special guests, Phil Godfrey and Becky Wesley of the National Senior Games Association: Welcome.

  • To our incredible cadre of volunteers: You have our heartfelt thanks and appreciation for all that you do so selflessly.

  • To team VA, Dewayne Vaughn and staff: You have pulled it all together on probably the busiest weekend of the entire year in Honolulu. Well done! Thank you!

  • To Jerry Coffee, our Master of Ceremonies, who endured seven brutal years as a prisoner of North Vietnam: Thank you for your service to the nation and assistance here tonight.

  • To Marine Sgt. Maj. Allan Jay Kellogg, whose extraordinary courage and selflessness earned him the nation’s highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor, 31 years ago: Many men have thrown themselves on a grenade to save their comrades, and received the Medal of Honor posthumously; Sgt. Maj. Kellogg did just that and lived. We are honored to have you here.

  • Finally and most importantly, to all our competitors: We are so happy to see you. This week is for and about you. You inspire all of us with your preparation, your discipline, and your determination as you set new goals for personal achievement.

  • I want to extend a warm VA welcome to a very special competitor, Jack Faust, 100 years young, a Navy Veteran of the Yangtze River Patrol and the South Pacific in World War II. Jack’s been competing since 2007 and is here with the Palo Alto Healthcare System team. Welcome, Jack!

We know that you are here because you embrace the rigors and rewards of competition. You have come to showcase your athletic skills, mental toughness, and physical fitness.

In doing so, you are role models for an active, healthy lifestyle, not a life on the couch. Thank you for demonstrating how to stave off the risks of obesity, diabetes, and other illnesses usually associated with aging. You are proof that the human body---when cared for, exercised, and strengthened---responds and extends the boundaries of performance too often defined only by age.

That’s why these games have grown from just 115 participants in its first year to 902 competitors for this year’s silver anniversary of Golden Age athletics!

In a few days, America will pause to honor its war dead---the men and women whose lives were given in defense of freedom and democracy. As we officially open the 25th National Veterans Golden Age Games, let us remember and give thanks for the service of all our magnificent men and women in uniform today and our 22 million Veterans from years past.

I now declare these games open. Have a great week!

God bless those who serve and have served in uniform, and may God continue to bless this wonderful country of ours. Thank you.