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Veterans give their all at Golden Age Games

    Eddie Yamasaki, an 87-year-old veteran of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, will compete next week in the air rifle competition in the 25th National Veterans Golden Age Games. Yamasaki is holding a photo of Company I from the book “And Then There Were Eight: The Men of I Company, 442nd Regimental Combat Team,” which comprises mostly the memoirs of the members of Company I. Yamasaki served in Company I and was the chairman of the book project, first published in 2003.

Fortune follows the brave, or at the very least the confident, so give Eddie Yamasaki his due because he’s going to enter the air rifle competition at the 25th annual National Veterans Golden Age Games.

The last time Yamasaki fired a rifle was during World War II as a member of the Army’s 442nd Regimental Combat Team. He may be 87, but Yamasaki isn’t worried.

“I used to be a pretty good shot,” he said. “I’m going for the fun of it, enjoy myself and meet some of the guys.”

The competition could be fierce, though.

The games, which run today through Tuesday at locations around Oahu, will draw more than 900 competitors ages 55 to 100 to compete in a range of events: swimming, cycling, bowling, dominoes, checkers, golf, horseshoes, croquet, shot put, discus, table tennis, shuffleboard, outrigger canoe paddling and … air rifle.

Air rifles shoot pellets and competitors will be aiming at 14-inch-square targets from a distance of 33 feet.

The Department of Veterans Affairs, which organizes the event, said it is the only multisports event for older veterans and the nation’s premier senior rehabilitation program.

Yamasaki got his weapons training after he was assigned to a platoon in I Company. A chaplain’s assistant, he was taught to fire a machine gun, an M-1 rifle and a .45-caliber handgun.

“As you know, you have to hold your breath to steady yourself,” he said. “I hope I can hold mine. I had a lung cancer operation and I am missing a lobe in my right lung. I will have to take a deep breath, hold it and steady the sites and zero in.”

Yamasaki, a Harvard-educated business executive who worked in Honolulu and Japan before retiring, also plans to enter the dominoes competition despite never having played the game. He’s also looking forward to the luau Saturday night.

“I think we may be past the golden age, but I get around,” Yamasaki said. “I work out twice a week with a trainer. I walk and do push-ups and lift weights. I am in pretty good shape.”


On vacation

June Watanabe is on vacation. Her “Kokua Line” column returns on May 31.

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