Valor Games: where veterans compete and connect

The three-day sporting competition, organized locally by the Chicago Park District, is for disabled veterans and wounded, ill or injured service members. It wrapped up Thursday.

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Army veteran Hattie Tyson, 63, competes in table tennis in the 2022 Valor Games Midwest at McKinley Park on Aug. 18, 2022.

Army veteran Hattie Tyson, 63, who lives on Chicago’s North Side, competes in table tennis in the 2022 Valor Games Midwest at McKinley Park.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Since the first Valor Games in 2011, Army veteran Hattie Tyson has made it a point to attend whenever possible.

“I’ve missed a couple, but I do my best to try and make it because it’s so encouraging and gives some of the veterans some hope,” Tyson said.

The sporting event, organized locally by the Chicago Park District, is for disabled veterans and wounded, ill or injured service members.

Events included rowing, archery and cycling and, on Thursday at McKinley Park, 85 competitors gathered for table tennis and biathlon, which combines cross-country skiing with target shooting.

U.S. Navy veteran Steve Thompson, 72, competes in biathlon during the 2022 Valor Games Midwest at McKinley Park.

U.S. Navy veteran Steve Thompson, 72, competes in biathlon during the 2022 Valor Games Midwest at McKinley Park on Thursday.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Steve Thompson was taking part in his first Valor Games. It was recommended to him by a program director at the park district, and he said his first year has been a wonderful experience.

“I would recommend any veteran to come and participate, because it’s a good avenue to get involved with fellow veterans,” Thompson said.

Army veteran Anthony Powell said the Valor Games have been important because they keep him active.

“I also get to do things I’ve never tried before,” Powell said. “I’ve never played table tennis before, but I tried it today.”

The camaraderie is as important as the competition to Navy veteran Ajay Mohammed, who is legally blind.

Like Thompson, this was Mohammed’s first time participating in the Valor Games.

“I forgot what it’s like to be among other veterans competing in these sports and sharing stories,” Mohammed said. “I’m so happy that there’s an event like this for us veterans.”

Cecily Roland, an Air Force veteran, was at her second Valor Games. She took part in every sport and enjoyed reconnecting with people she met last year.

Tyson already is looking forward to next year, which she expects to be bigger and even better.

“I hope I’m able to participate next year because it keeps me going,” Tyson said. “It’s also something I feel that everyone needs because they can get some joy out of it.”

Ajay Mohammed, 41, of Mukwonago, Wisconsin, a U.S. Navy veteran who is legally blind, competes in biathlon Thursday in the 2022 Valor Games Midwest at McKinley Park.

Ajay Mohammed, 41, of Mukwonago, Wisconsin, a U.S. Navy veteran who is legally blind, competes in biathlon Thursday in the 2022 Valor Games Midwest at McKinley Park.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

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