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Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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32 Local Veterans Compete in 23st National Veterans Golden Age Games

June 9, 2009

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Marvin Zalesky, an Army veteran from Houston, Texas, was one of nearly 700 Veterans competing in the 23rd National Veterans Golden Age Games, the largest sporting event in the world for senior Veterans. Of the team from the Michael E DeBakey VA Medical Center, Zalesky brought home more medals than any of his teammates: a silver in bowling, a bronze in dominoes, and a bronze in shuffleboard.


Competitors included combat and non-combat veterans
from WWII, Korean War, and Vietnam War.
Event promotes healthy lifestyle and is designed to improve
the quality of life for all older veterans including those
with a wide range of abilities and disabilities.

HOUSTON – In June, 32 Veterans from the Houston area participated in the 23rd National Veterans Golden Age Games held in Birmingham, Alabama and brought home 17 medals. The Games are open to all U.S. military Veterans age 55 or older who receive care at a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facility. More than 700 Veterans from all over the country registered to compete this year.

“The Golden Age Games continue to grow every year and the athletes who participate are testimony that the spirit of competition, camaraderie, and commitment to an actively invigorating lifestyle,” said Marilyn Iverson, director of the Veterans Canteen Service. “This spirit not only helps to prevent illness, it strengthens the hearts and rejuvenates the soul.”

The Games give participants the opportunity to compete in ambulatory, visually impaired and wheelchair divisions, according to their ages. Events include swimming, bicycling, bowling, croquet, air rifle, golf, dominoes, table tennis, nine ball, checkers, shuffleboard, horseshoes, discus, and shot-put.

“We are thrilled 12 Veterans brought medals homes for the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center this year,” said Recreation Therapist and Golden Age Game Coach Stacey N. Spicer, TRS/TXC, MBA. “Everyone had a great time during the competitions, plus the Veterans thoroughly enjoyed visiting the Barber Vintage Motorsport Museum, touring the Civil Rights Institute and Museum, and dancing at the Southern Blues & Barbeque Event.”

The other coaches for the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center were Maurice Stringfellow, Program Support Assistant Billie Sanders, and Recreation Therapist JeMarques Handy.

The gold medal winners include Army Veteran Billy Lacy in golf, Navy Veteran Leon Robles in nine ball, and Navy Veteran Joseph Bartholow in shuffleboard. The silver medal winners are Air Force Veteran August Gonsoulin in bowling, Air Force Veteran Joan Lance in bowling, Navy Veteran Leon Robles in bowling, Army Veteran Joe Ruiz in bowling, Army Veteran Marvin Zalesky in bowling, Army Veteran John Holt in dominoes, and Army Veteran Margarita Dozier in horseshoes. The 3rd place winners include Army Veteran Basil Morehead in dominoes and discus, Army Veteran Marvin Zalesky in dominoes and shuffleboard, Navy Veteran Joseph Bartholow in golf, Army Veteran Joseph Robert in shuffleboard, and Army Veteran John Smith in swimming.

The Golden Age Games are co-sponsored by the VA, Help Hospitalized Veterans (HHV) and Veterans Canteen Service (VCS). This year’s event was hosted by the VA medical center in Birmingham.

The Games are designed to improve the quality of life for all older Veterans, including those with a wide range of abilities and disabilities. Through a partnership with the National Senior Games Association, a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee, the Games serve as a qualifier for the National Senior Games, held every other year.

“HHV is extremely pleased to continue its support of this wonderful therapeutic program,” said Mike Lynch, executive director of HHV. “The Games continue to demonstrate VA’s commitment to offer programs that help Veteran patients in their health recovery and to send the message that Americans support their service to our country.”

The Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston hosted the National Veterans Golden Age Games in 2007.  The Central Iowa Health Care System in Des Moines, Iowa will host the Games next year. For more information, visit

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