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Local Disabled Veterans Bring Home Medals from National Veterans Wheelchair Games

August 9, 2013

Front row L – R: Houston competitors: Army Veteran Thomas Sagpao, Marine Corps Veteran Patrick Pennington, Air Force Veteran Roderick Randolph, Army Veteran William Watson, Recreation Therapist and National Veterans Wheelchair Games Coach JeMarques Handy, Army Veteran Darryl Blackwell, and Marine Corps Veteran Silviano Rivera, Jr.
(More photos below)

A wide range of disabilities could not stop nine local wheelchair athletes from competing and bringing home those coveted gold, silver, and bronze medals from the 33rd National Veterans Wheelchair Games held in Tampa, Florida July 13-18. The athletes are all disabled Veterans who receive their health care at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC).

The local Veterans this year included Darryl Blackwell, an Army Veteran from Houston; Franklynn Ellis, an Army Veteran from Dayton; David Fowler, an Army Veteran from Katy; Patrick Pennington, a Marine Corps Veteran from Cypress; Roderick Randolph, an Air Force Veteran from Houston; Emmitt Richardson, an Army Veteran from Baytown; Silviano Rivera, a Marine Corps Veteran from Willis; Thomas Sagpao, an Army Veteran from Galveston; and William Watson, an Army Veteran from Needville.

Nearly 600 athletes came from the United States, Great Britain and Puerto Rico to compete in the world’s largest annual multi-sport wheelchair event for military service Veterans who use wheelchairs for sports competition due to spinal cord injuries, amputations or neurological problems.

“For the first time since my injury I felt like an athlete again,” said Rivera who won bronze in slalom. “I competed and accomplished what I didn’t expect to accomplish and that returned a sense of pride in me.” 

“The National Veterans Wheelchair Games was by far the most exciting experience to date,” said Pennington who won silver in slalom and bronze in softball. “Not only did I have fun, but I learned a lot from other Veterans that have been doing it for a long time.  I definitely will be going every year from now on.”      

The competition featured 18 different medal-awarding events and two exhibition events with athletes competing against their peers according to wheelchair sports experience and agility. The event is held with a goal to improve the quality of life for Veterans with disabilities and foster better health through sports competition. Besides producing national and world-class athletes, the Games also provide opportunities for newly disabled Veterans to gain sports skills and be exposed to other wheelchair athletes.

“An experience like this shows the adventure of being in a wheelchair,” said Sagpao who won silver in softball and bronze in slalom. “I’ll always remember now that life rolls on.” 

The Games are presented by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Paralyzed Veterans of America. The James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital and the Florida Gulf Coast Chapter of Paralyzed Veterans of America co-hosted the 2013 event.

For more information, please visit or contact Jordan Schupbach, (202) 664-3733 or

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of National Veterans Sports Programs & Special Events is the recognized world leader in rehabilitative and recreational therapies for disabled Veterans. VA promotes the rehabilitation of body and spirit by operating adaptive sports clinics and competitions around the nation. Learn more about VA's adaptive sports programs and partnerships at

Army Veteran Franklynn Ellis (black jersey #3 from left) competes in the quad rugby event, in which he took home a gold medal for, along with another gold medal in archery from the 33rd National Wheelchair Games. 


Marine Corps Veteran Silviano Rivera, Jr.;  Army Veteran Thomas Sagpao, and Marine Corps Veteran Patrick Pennington proudly display their medals from the 33rd National Veterans Wheelchair Games.


Army Veteran Thomas Sagpao took home a silver medal in softball and a bronze medal in slalom from the 33rd National Veterans Wheelchair Games. “An experience like this shows the adventure of being in a wheelchair,” said Sagpao. “I’ll always remember now that life rolls on.”