Vietnam vets compete in Golden Age Games
The Vietnam War may be over, but for many area veterans the annual Golden Age Games event brings back their competitive spirit.
"I play dominoes with my PTSD group and I volunteer playing dominoes with other veterans at the VA in Houston," said former Army Infantryman John Holt, who served in the Mekong Delta from 1966-1968. "Playing dominoes helps me and it helps them because we learn to focus mentally."
This is Holt's tenth year playing at the Golden Age Games, making him the so-called veteran of veterans at the dominoes table.
"The Games have become a must for me," Holt added. "They have brought warmth to my life. They bring the freedom of stress from me serving in Vietnam and trying to cope with life after the war."
Forney "Baker John" Johnson served in the Navy aboard the U.S.S. Kitty Hawk from 1964-1968 and told tales of the war to anyone who had an open ear.
"All of us have our own personal stories," Johnson, an eight-year vet of the Golden Age Games, said in a news release. "It came down on us. We came home and we couldn't tell anybody what we saw, the bodies, what we did, because they didn't get it. They still don't. You don't get it unless you were there. Then you understand.
"When I came back [from Vietnam], I had one friend I could talk to because he got it, because he'd been there, too, but he was in bad shape and doing stuff and finally he went to VA. They helped him and he was happy and he told me that I should go, too. I didn't believe him, but I went because my friend said they could help me and they did. The VA has come a long way. They really do help."
Ex-Marine Corps machine gunner Andrew Fuqua, on the ground in Vietnam from 1965-1967, attended his first Games after finding out about it through his own PTSD group.
"I've been home [from Vietnam] for over 40 years," said Fuqua. "It was hard to find people who understand. My wife has been with me for 30 years, but unless you've been there, been in the military, you don't understand. It's nice to be with people who are like you, who have been there."
Match winner Thomas Washington was a newbie at the Games and doesn't talk much about Vietnam. Instead, his focus is on winning the game at hand with his own strategy.
"Count," Washington said in a statement. "Watch the board. All money ain't good money. Try to be in control and see what's on the board. This works when you play and watch the numbers like he [Washington]did. If you can lock it up, it's a strategy, a gamble. For example, he locked it up when we both had two left. He had 12 points [and] I had 14, so he won, but he didn't know I had 14. If I had 11, it would have been me who won. He took a risk and it paid off because that's his strategy."
After each game, the participants shake hands — a far cry from the days in the Vietnam jungle more than 40 years ago.
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