More than 600 veterans attend Opening Ceremonies during the NVWG in Dallas, Texas. Photo Christopher DiVirgilio
More than 600 veterans celebrated the Opening Ceremonies of the 35th Annual National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Dallas
Dallas opened with a pretty impressive Opening Ceremonies of the 35th annual National Veterans Wheelchair Games (NVWG) on Sunday night.
Inside the Dallas Convention Center arena, red and blue spotlights flashed on the record-breaking number of participants.
Cheerleaders with blue and white uniforms made an appearance, as did a host of major Texas political leaders, including Gov. Greg Abbott, the first governor to use a wheelchair in more than 30-plus years. Gov. Abbott also read a letter written by former President George W. Bush and announced Dallas Cowboys and NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach will be on-hand to visit the Games this week.
Trying to put on “the best Games people have ever seen,” the city made and displayed quite a case.
“By the number of record-breaking athletes that you have at this particular Wheelchair Games, you’re showing that once again showing that everything is bigger in Texas by having the largest [National Veterans} Wheelchair Games competition ever,” Abbott says.
This year’s National Veterans Wheelchair Games had the highest number of registrants in history with 675 – including 150 new athletes. Four countries, including the United States, South Korea, Great Britain and Puerto Rico, are also represented.
“It’s quite apparent the Games continues to grow and touch the lives of a growing number of people across the nation and around the globe,” Paralyzed Veterans of America President Al Kovach Jr. says.
The Games started at 8 a.m. today at Southern Methodist University with track and field events.
Besides the exciting announcements, the Opening Ceremony also had Abbott, who just took office this year and is paralyzed from the waist down after a falling oak tree hit him in the back.
He’s the first governor to use a wheelchair since Alabama’s George C. Wallace in 1982.
He, along with Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, gave a compelling list of reasons why Dallas is the best host to put on the NVWG.
Rawlings acknowledged it was because the city loves its veterans, focuses on their abilities and loves sports.
“We’re excited it [this week] because we love veterans. We love the men and women that have fought for us, have defended us and have made sure that we are safe in our homes and are leaders across this world. We believe that Dallas is the best place for veterans to live and if anybody wants to move here we’d love to have you,” Rawlings says. “We appreciate what you have given, the sacrifices you have given and that’s another reason we’re excited about this week.”
Abbott added two more. The first being that no state in the nation is as passionate about the military as Texas is. He says it’s home of 15 military bases, almost two million veterans and their families and that the state believes in the military.
The second? It’s the only state in the nation with a governor in a wheelchair. A T12 paraplegic, Abbott was out running one day when a huge tree crashed down onto his back, fractured his vertebrae and spinal cord, leaving him paralyzed. But it’s after his injury that he accomplished major goals – and he reminded veterans of just that before they compete.
“Like many of you, I fought through excruciating pain. Like you, I battled what seemed like immense frustration about not being able to walk again. Like you, I found that there was life after injury,” says Abbott. “It was after my injury that I became a lawyer and then a judge and then the attorney general of Texas and now I’m the governor of the Lone Star state.”
To learn more about the National Veterans Wheelchair Games, please visit Wheelchair Games