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DVIDS – News – BJACH Ombudsman JRTC and Fort Polk Champion of NVGAG, fitness, life

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FORT POLK, La. The military ombudsman of Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital brought home eight medals to the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk, Louisiana at the 36th annual National Veterans Golden Age Games. Kevin Stuart, retired sergeant major and combat medic, is a great example of fitness and resilience for veterans of all ages.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Veterans Golden Age Games are the premier adaptive rehabilitation program for seniors in the United States, and the only national sports and recreation program for seniors with multiple events. The program is designed to improve the quality of life for all senior veterans, including those with a wide range of skills and disabilities. The NVGAG is one of the most progressive and adaptive rehabilitation programs for senior sports in the world. The Games serve as a qualifying event for competition in the National Senior Games in a number of competitive events.

This year’s competition was held in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and was the third in which Stuart entered.

Stuart says being physically active is the best way to build resilience and improve overall health.

I am 62 years old and exercise and fitness are part of my daily life, he said. There’s a reason the military does physical training first thing in the morning, because it gets those endorphins flowing, he said. Endorphins make us feel good, look good and help us do our best. I encourage everyone to get up and move as often as possible. Simple things people can do, such as parking further away or going for a walk during a break from work, can improve our overall well-being. Moving makes us feel better and we can better serve our patients and beneficiaries.

Stuart said he heard of the NVGAG in 2016.

The games are held annually in several cities across the country for veterans aged 55 and older, he said. I competed in the Albuquerque, New Mexico, Anchorage, Alaska and most recently in Sioux Falls competitions. They have canceled scheduled events for Florida and Wisconsin due to COVID-19.

Stuart said there are a variety of activities for male and female veterans, including air pistol, air rifle, badminton, basketball, blind disc golf, boccia, bowling, cornhole, cycling, adaptive cycling, field, golf, horseshoes, nine ball, pickleball, power walk, shuffleboard, swimming, table tennis and athletics. The events are open to ambulatory, wheelchair-bound and blind athletes with age ratings of 55-59, 60-64, 65-69, 70-74, 75-79, 80-84, 85-89 and 90 plus. Stuart participated in nine events.

This year I took part in the air rifle event for the first time where I finished eighth, he said. I earned medals in the other events I competed in. I finished first in the 1500m power walk, 2nd in 400m running and pickleball, third in the 3000 and 1500m running, as well as badminton and table tennis.

Stuart said he used partner finder for both badminton and pickleball and met his partners for those sports on the day of the event.

I met a lot of great people who participated in these games. Veterans from the Korean War, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan, he said. When I was competing in the Anchorage games, there was a 101-year-old female World War II veteran who won first place in bowling.

Stuart said many of the participants spend a lot of time practicing their events and their own top-of-the-line equipment.

This is a huge deal, the medals are a big deal and are a culmination of all their hard work, he said. The medals and the games are motivating and inspiring.

Stuart said the camaraderie of the NVGAG games is unparalleled.

The same camaraderie we had in the military; Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard, he said. It’s similar to that, to that connection we had when we were in the military. We have that sisterhood and brotherhood in these events. When we were in the military, we were competitive; when we were given a mission or a task, we wanted to be the best. These are games, but it is also life; fitness for life. You can’t just come to these games and perform, you have to prepare and you have to practice. These games have connected me with other veterans from all over the country, different branches and eras of service that I wouldn’t have met if I hadn’t decided to get involved.

Stuart served in the military for 32 years and retired in 2014. In 2018, he became the military ombudsman for BJACH.

The JRTC and Fort Polk Ombudsman serves as an independent, neutral and impartial resource for members of the military and their families. The ombudsman can help deal with medical problems, but can also help address other problems.

Stuart says he enjoys his position as military ombudsman at BJACH because he wants to share his knowledge and experience to help others. In his role, he serves as a liaison, advocate, and resource for soldiers and their families.

If a soldier or family member presents a problem to me, I will tackle that problem as if it were my own, he said. I will coordinate, collaborate, communicate and in some cases mediate to help that person solve their problem.

Colonel Aristotle Vaseliades, commander of BJACH, said Stuart embodies resilience.

mr. Stuart has the ability to find positivity in everything that happens around him; good bad or indifferent, he said. As a retired sergeant major, working on the civilian side of the government, he has the ability to interact with almost everyone in the hospital. He understands the perspective they come from and provides useful tools and recommendations to become more resilient.

Vaseliades said he encourages resilience within his organization.

First, during processing, I remind all employees that their health and well-being are essential to delivering their best on a daily basis. I encourage them to do whatever they need to to stay on top of their well-being physically, psychologically, spiritually and emotionally, he said. At BJACH we provide a meditation room and a resilient gym to the staff where they can take a short break to relax or work off some stress if they need it. We also just established a resilience team made up of a cross-section of hospital staff, both soldiers and civilians charged with looking at certain areas in the hospital that could be improved to help with resilience. Mr. Stuart is responsible for viewing our wellness line.

Stuart said he encourages everyone to try new things whenever they can.

Humans are not made to be alone, especially as we get older, these games bring people together and help us stay connected, he said. It is important for veterans to join and participate in veteran organizations and advocate for each other and for those who still serve.

Stuart said everyone should be involved in something.

Everyone should be involved in some kind of activity or event to keep you going, he said. Everyone has a niche, but sometimes you don’t know what that is until you get into it. I would like to say to everyone: give yourself the opportunity to participate in something. If you can get involved in some kind of activity, group and give back to the community. Sometimes we are the craft of helping others and we don’t even realize it until we get involved.

Stuart said there’s something good in every day.

Get out of the house, get out of the barracks, he said. There is plenty to do and participate in, both on and off the post. In life there is a bright side and a slummy side. I tend to look on the bright side. I don’t need the negative vibes, I need the positive vibes. The positive vibes tend to get me moving, thinking and being positive. There is something good in every day, we just have to find it.

Date taken: 08.16.2022
Date posted: 08.16.2022 13:55
Story ID: 427351
Place: FORT POLK, LA, USA

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