Military Veterans Compete In The 34th Annual Wheelchair Games - FOX 35 News Orlando

Military Veterans Compete In The 34th Annual Wheelchair Games

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PHILADELPHIA -

More than 600 military veterans are in Philadelphia this week for the 34th annual  National Veterans Wheelchair Games.

FOX 29's Bruce Gordon was on hand for the opening ceremonies on Tuesday.

"The Greatest Athletes on Wheels" have several things in common; all are military veterans in the VA system, and injury or illness has left them in a wheelchair.

"I'm actually alive and I'm living and I'm making a difference. I'm an ambassador of hope, helping other players evolve,” said Glenn Isaac Fretz.

44-year-old Fretz, a U.S. Army veteran, who was paralyzed from the chest down during Operation Desert Storm began competing in the Wheelchair Games after a post-accident conversation with his father, who is a doctor.

"And he said, 'Always let the possibilities define you, not the disabilities,'” said Fretz.

All this week, more than 600 athletes will compete in 19 different sports, which are tweaked for wheelchair play. Event organizers call the games "life-changing."

"I think a lot of people see being in a wheelchair as being confined to a wheelchair and stuff, but when you get the guys out here on the courts, all that disability goes away. Basically, the wheelchair becomes an equalizer for everybody. It's no longer a handicap," said event organizer Al Kovach.

49-year-old Kevin Patton was paralyzed in a car crash while serving in the Air Force.

Now, after 18 years of competition in the Wheelchair Games, playing lacrosse among other sports, he's officiating this year. Patton loves hearing people talk about the limitations of life in a wheelchair.

"I tell them, get in the chair and come out here and play with me. Let me show you what I 'can't' do. And I'll show you what I CAN do,” said Patton.

Then, there's 25-year-old Mason Symons who grew up in Schuylkill County, Pa.

He was paralyzed in a motorcycle crash on his way to an Army National Guard training drill. Symons now stars at Quad rugby, which is otherwise known as "Murderball." He has one motto, "Go hard or go home. That's pretty much it," he said.

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