WASHINGTON (Army News Service, July 25, 2008) - The 28th National Veterans Wheelchair Games, scheduled to take place July 25-29 in Omaha, Neb., will attract more than 500 veterans with disabilities.

The event has become the largest annual wheelchair sports competition in the world. Veterans from conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq will again join their fellow veterans in 17 competitive events.

"We are proud to present this outstanding rehabilitation event, a therapeutic extension of the superior heath care veterans receive in our medical centers each day," said Dr. James B. Peake, secretary of Veterans Affairs. "Rehabilitation is crucial to living a full life following an injury. I applaud all of the veterans participating as they strive to achieve their goals during this week of athletic competition."

The National Veterans Wheelchair Games, co-presented by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Paralyzed Veterans of America, are open to all U.S. military veterans who use wheelchairs for sports competition due to spinal cord injuries, certain neurological conditions, amputations or other mobility impairments.

The VA Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System in Omaha and the Paralyzed Veterans Great Plains Chapter are the local hosts for the 2008 Games. Veterans competing in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games come from nearly every state, as well as Puerto Rico and Great Britain.

"Like serving our nation, the National Veterans Wheelchair Games are not really about the medals. Instead, they're a mix of camaraderie, competition and courage. And they're rehabilitation at its best for our paralyzed veterans," said Randy L. Pleva, Sr., national president of the Paralyzed Veterans of America. "If you are in the Omaha area, please join us this July. You'll be inspired."

At the Games, veterans will compete in swimming, basketball, track, weight lifting, softball, air guns, quad rugby, nine-ball, field events, bowling, table tennis, archery, handcycling, wheelchair slalom, trapshooting, a motorized wheelchair relay and power soccer. An exhibition event in sled hockey will also take place this year. For the second year, several stand-up events will be held for athletes with amputations who choose to compete using prosthetic devices instead of competing in their wheelchairs.

The 28th National Veterans Wheelchair Games begin July 25 with a kick-off wheelchair basketball demonstration at the Qwest Center Omaha, and the 2008 Disabled Sports, Recreation and Fitness Expo. Kids Day at the Games will take place on July 27 at Northwest High School, where local children with disabilities will meet the athletes and learn about wheelchair sports.

Opening and closing ceremonies will also be held at the Qwest Center Omaha, along with many of the week's competitive events. Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman is expected to attend, along with senior VA leaders and the president of Paralyzed Veterans of America . Some of the sports events will be held at the Henry Doorly Zoo, the University of Nebraska, Mockingbird and Thunderbowl Lanes, Tranquility Ice Plex and other area venues. Admission is free to the public and the community is encouraged to attend.

Sports are important in the therapy used to treat many disabilities, VA officials said. They added that the Wheelchair Games provide many veterans with their first exposure to wheelchair athletics.