Beginning Thursday, the city of Louisville will host the 39th National Veterans Wheelchair Games. With 19 competitive events from weightlifting to hand cycling, the games are a rehabilitation competition giving our nation’s heroes the chance to engage and build supportive relationships with their fellow veterans.
A partnership between the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Paralyzed Veterans of America, the games will draw more than 800 athletes to Kentucky, and I’m so proud to welcome these brave men and women to the Bluegrass State.
The games, which are the largest sports events for veterans who use wheelchairs in the world, start Thursday at the Kentucky International Convention Center and will conclude on July 16. Activities like the National Veterans Wheelchair Games offer support to many veterans as they work through recovery, helping improve their mental and physical health. They also give communities like Louisville the opportunity to pay tribute to these men and women who served and sacrificed for our country.
I’m especially proud of the Kentucky veterans who are participating in this year’s games. Through these programs, athletes such as Clarence Wilson from Alexandria, Roy Gray from Elizabethtown and Terry Sutton from Louisville say they have received critical support and camaraderie as well as the thrill of competition among their fellow veterans. I wish these Kentuckians, and all participants, the best of luck in their drive for gold.
Hosting these games is one example of this year’s milestones for the 300,000 veterans who call Kentucky home. Last month, our nation marked the 75th anniversary of the Greatest Generation’s triumph over the forces of tyranny on D-Day. And earlier this year, I was proud to announce our country is keeping its promise to Louisville’s veteran community as President Trump included full funding for the new Robley Rex Veterans Affairs Medical Center in his annual budget.
After more than a decade of work with Kentucky veterans to build a new VA hospital, I’m grateful President Trump agreed to help us deliver the quality health care Kentucky’s heroes deserve in a state-of-the-art facility. As Senate majority leader, I’ve drawn national attention to this project, and over the years I’ve already secured approximately half of the funding necessary. With President Trump’s recognition of the project’s importance, we’re closer than ever to finally beginning construction.
Recently, I had the opportunity to meet with the new director of the Robley Rex facility, Stephen Black, in my U.S. Capitol office. We discussed the future medical center’s progress, as well as our shared commitment to those who have served our nation in uniform.
Of course, the construction of the new Louisville VA medical center is only part of our work to support American heroes. After President Trump signed the landmark “VA Mission Act” last year, I’ve worked closely with administration officials to help ensure veterans had a voice during the implementation of these critical reforms.
The comprehensive legislation also included a number of programs to help veterans in rural Kentucky communities and across the country. By emphasizing telemedicine and partnerships with community care providers, the new law expands opportunities to help veterans and improves access to medical care. I was proud to help lead passage of this important bill in the Senate because I know the positive difference it can make in the lives of veterans and their families.
After celebrating our Independence Day last week, I can think of no better way to honor our country’s history and values than by welcoming the National Veterans Wheelchair Games to Louisville. I want to thank the many local partners who made this remarkable event possible, as well as the VA, the PVA and the AmeriCorps volunteers. Most importantly, I hope you’ll join me in thanking these heroes for their service and sacrifice and in wishing them all the best during this competition.
Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, is the Senate majority leader. He can be reached at mcconnell.senate.gov or (502) 582-6304.