Blind Centralia Navy veteran competing in his third consecutive National Veterans Golden Age Games

After serving in Seabees, including a stint in Antarctica, Charles Ament keeps a competitive edge at nearly 82 years old


Though he is legally blind and nearly 82 years old, Charles Ament, of Centralia, isn’t letting it keep him from competing in his third consecutive Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) National Veterans Golden Age Games, which will be held from Aug. 24 to Aug. 29 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

With a mission of promoting “fitness for life,” the games provide an opportunity for veterans 55 and older to compete in the Golden Age Games in 17 different events.

The competitions range from swimming and cycling to cornhole and disc golf. Athletes can also compete in track and field events. It is a qualifying event for the National Senior Games.

“It is a national showcase for the preventative and therapeutic value of sports, fitness and recreation for all older American veterans,” Ament told The Chronicle. “The event provides an opportunity to improve their quality of life and assist and encourage veterans to live an active and healthy lifestyle.”

The competition is broken up into three divisions, which include ambulatory, wheelchair and visually impaired.

A U.S. Navy veteran who served in the Navy’s famous Seabees construction unit, Ament has macular degeneration, which has left him completely blind in his right eye and with cloudy vision in his left after he was initially diagnosed 30 years ago.

“After I turned 65, that’s when I had to stop driving,” Ament said.

Despite losing most of his eyesight, he has competed in five different Golden Age Games events over the past two years in the visually impaired division. He’s competed in cornhole, horseshoe, boccia ball, bowling, shuffleboard and disc golf.

“They make us all wear blindfolds, so it’s an even field,” Ament added.

In 2022, during the 36th annual Golden Age Games in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Ament won the gold medal for cornhole and horseshoes, the silver medal for boccia ball and the bronze for shuffleboard for his age bracket.

Last year, he took home the gold medal for boccia ball and the silver for cornhole, horseshoe, shuffleboard and disc golf during the 37th annual Golden Age Games in Des Moines, Iowa.

He also got the chance to try the air rifle exhibition last year, but wasn’t a fan. He’s looking forward to trying archery in Salt Lake City this year.

Now that Ament has had a chance to taste the competition, he wants to let other veterans who might also be interested in competing in the Golden Age Games know about them. 

“A lot of veterans don’t know about them, but, if they did, I think they might want to compete,” he said.

Those interested in competing next year must be ready to register quickly, as competition spots are limited.

“Registration opened up back in February I think, and it closed in about four hours,” Ament said.

There are around 1,100 veterans competing in the Golden Age Games this August, he added.

Ament discovered the Golden Age Games through recreational therapist Jacqueline Cismowski of the Blind Rehabilitation Center at the American Lake VA Medical Center in Tacoma. He still goes there every Wednesday for adaptive sports training along with almost a dozen other veterans also preparing for this year’s Golden Age Games.

“There are actually three or four coaches up there who help us train for our games,” Ament said.

He’s thankful for the Blind Rehabilitation Center, as staff there helped him adjust to living with visual impairment and have also trained him on how to use special technology that enables him to still use a computer and watch TV, as he’s a Seattle Mariners fan who still follows the team.

“I’ve been through their program four times now. It’s a very good program for someone who’s visually impaired,” Ament said. 

Along with training to compete in the Golden Age Games, Ament also enjoys woodworking — having just recently crafted five custom cutting boards for his children — and weaving rugs, several of which are displayed in his home.

Originally from Minnesota, Ament joined the Navy at the age of 17 on May 31, 1960, just days after his high school graduation. He joined through the Navy’s old Kiddie Cruise program, which offered 17-year-olds the opportunity to serve and finish an enlistment by the time they turned 21.

“I turned 18 on June 2, birthday in boot camp,” Ament added.

After graduating boot camp, he wanted to be a Seabee and got his wish. Ament ended up being stationed in Rhode Island at the Davisville Naval Construction Battalion Center, the Seabees’ original home base.

“I went through a couple of different schools there, tile-setting and block-laying, which I didn’t want to do, but that’s what we were going to be doing on our deployment,” Ament said.

After training, Ament underwent additional basic infantry training at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and mobile airstrip training at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina.

“This was in 1961 when Vietnam was just getting started, but then we deployed to Cuba for nine months where we built dependent housing at the base,” Ament said.

After building new housing at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Ament spent two and a half months finishing more dependent housing at the naval air station in Puerto Rico. Following that, he returned to Davisville before getting orders to Christchurch, New Zealand, to be part of a Seabee detachment going to Antarctica.

In New Zealand, he prepared for Antarctica along with helping the New Zealand National Guard repair and rebuild their barracks.

“We spent three months there, and then it was on to Antarctica for five and a half months,” Ament added.

There, he worked at the Navy’s former New Byrd Station as a part of Operation Deep Freeze, which was a joint-national operation aimed at setting up research stations on the frozen continent and involved scientists from over 60 countries.

The Seabees were responsible for building, reclaiming and fortifying the research stations.

After Antarctica, he helped with steel work and plumbing on a nuclear power plant under construction until June of 1963.

“Then it was back home and out of the service,” Ament said.

He worked in carpentry and construction in Minnesota for a while, but eventually moved to Washington state as Minnesota winters aren’t the most conducive for construction.

Ament and his wife, Kathleen, eventually settled in Snoqualmie before he got a job working for Weyerhaeuser and moved to Centralia, where he lives to this day.

While preparing to go to the 38th annual National Veterans Golden Age Games in Salt Lake City, Ament is also accepting donations to help fund his week-long trip there.

Most of his meals will be provided to him while there, but Ament is responsible for paying for his own airfare and lodging. Last year’s trip cost him around $2,200.

“If you are interested in providing partial or full financial support, thank you for your generosity,” Ament said.

Those interested in donating toward his trip can contact him at or 360-589-6770.

For more information on the Golden Age Games, visit