Veterans Dennis Kim, Ben Sok and Ed Sawicki will compete in the Valor Games Far West next weekend, often in sports they have never tried before.

"I'm apprehensive," said Kim, a Vietnam War vet who will compete in marksmanship, archery, discus throw and shot put. "There may be others who have the edge over me. But I'm not doing this for a medal. None of us are doing this for medals."

The Valor Games were established in 2011 by World Sport Chicago, U.S. Paralympics and the U.S. Veterans Affairs Department to introduce disabled veterans and service members to competitive sports and connect them to sports-minded organizations in their communities. The idea is not to reward the strongest and fastest. It's to help disabled vets live normal lives and stay in shape for the rest of their lives.

"I think that we have definitely seen some improvement in the number of veterans participating in these programs locally," said Pamela J. Redding, event director of the Far West games that will take place May 30 to June 2 on Coast Guard Island in Alameda. Participating veterans must compete in at least four events, with coaching provided in sports they've never tried before.

Kim was a Marine infantryman during the Vietnam War who fought in the fierce battles at the Que Son Valley and Chu Lai. He fractured his left arm badly in a parachuting accident and returned home suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

"I saw combat and lost a lot of friends there," he said. The retired law enforcement officer lives in Mountain View.


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Former Marine Ben Sok fought in the invasion of Iraq and later in Afghanistan. He returned home suffering from PTSD, severe conditions that cost him his first marriage. The 33-year-old vet has since earned a bachelor's degree in business and is studying for a master's degree in public administration at San Jose State University, where he is president of the campus' Student Veterans of America chapter. Two of the events he has chosen so far include archery and shot put, which he's never tried.

"I hope there's a low learning curve for those two sports," said Sok, who described himself more as a nerd in his youth than a jock. He is the son of Cambodian refugees who survived the genocide under the Khmer Rouge and resettled in the Central Valley.

"I enlisted because America saved their lives and I wanted to give something back to this country," Sok said. "I believe in the Valor Games because it lets me know I'm not alone."

The games are open to the public, but registration is required. Details are available online at http://www.fwwaa.org/valor-games-far-west.

Contact Joe Rodriguez at 408-920-5767. Follow him at Twitter.com/joerodmercury.