Air Force Veteran and Shreveport, Louisiana, resident Jackie Perry brought home the gold during the 2017 National Veterans Golden Age Games in Biloxi, Mississippi this past May.
Perry launched a shot put more than 30 feet to earn the top spot on the podium in the 55-59 age group. It was his first time throwing a 16-pounder.
“I was always a runner. I ran a little bit in high school, jumped hurdles and did the long jump. I could never throw shot though— that’s what the big fellas were doing,” Perry said. “I was a little bitty fella back then.”
Perry, originally from Memphis, Tennessee, joined the Air Force following high school. He retired after serving 22 years, working in security forces and administration. He purchased a home while stationed at Barksdale Air Force Base in the 90s and returned to the Shreveport area after retiring.
Perry competed with Team Shreveport, a group of Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas Veterans sponsored by Overton Brooks VA Medical Center’s Voluntary Service. It was first time competing at the games. Perry said he didn’t know what to expect when he arrived.
“I was just doing it for fun. I just happened to get my medal. After winning ‘the put’ I said—hey I’m going to try to win as much as I can,” Perry said.
And win he did. Perry placed in air rifle, javelin, 100-meter dash, 200-meter dash and the power walk.
“I hadn’t run in a long time, but it made me think I was young again. I could have done better in the 100. There was a photographer near the track and when the flash went off I thought it was a photo finish … so I slowed down before the finish line.” Perry joked. “I was robbed.”
Team Shreveport Coach and Overton Brooks VA Medical Center Kinesiologist Charles Cao recruited Perry from the VA MOVE! Weight Management Program.
“Mr. Perry is natural. That guy is strong. He’s a beast,” Cao said.
Cao wants more Veterans to join team Shreveport and to expand Overton Brooks’ training program for the games. He’s working with community partners and schools in the Shreveport and Bossier City area to provide year-round access for Veterans to regulation- sized running tracks. He’s also trying to partner with area gyms to offer membership discounts to Veterans.
“This was my third year as a coach and every year has been good, but eventually we want to get to the point where we train year-round, compete and bring back a fistful of medals to Shreveport,” Cao said.
He encourages eligible Veterans, no matter their physical limitations to participate in adaptive sports.
“Fitness is for life—that’s our motto,” Cao said. “We can work with you. I tell my Veterans, you just have to move. I saw World War II Veterans out there still competing. It was inspiring. No matter what limits they had, they’re out there competing—going above and beyond their limitations.”
Perry also urged Veterans to get involved and compete in the games. He said he enjoyed the camaraderie and seeing Veterans maintaining their competitive spirit despite disability or age.
“I was inspired watching folks compete in the events. It helps you get motivated to get into shape,” Perry said. “You got to do something to keep these old bones shaking and moving. I’m 58 years old. I didn’t know about the games, until this year. I’m three years behind. I’m fixing to go from here on out. Lord willing, I’m going to be there.”
The 2018 National Veterans Golden Age Games will be held Aug. 3 -8, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Registration will open in early 2018. For more information visit the National Veteran Golden Age Games page or contact the national staff.
The National Veterans Golden Age Games is the premier senior adaptive rehabilitation program in the United States, and the only national multi-event sports and recreational seniors’ competition program designed to improve the quality of life for all older Veterans, including those with a wide range of abilities and disabilities.
The games are open to Veterans, ages 55 or older, who are enrolled in healthcare from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Veterans can participate in competitions such as air rifle, badminton, boccia, bowling, cycling, field, golf, horseshoes, nine ball, powerwalk, shuffleboard, swimming, table tennis and track and field events.
David Gasperson is a public affairs officer at the Overton Brooks VA Medical Center.