Rubin: Support our veterans with more than a magnet

Neal Rubin
The Detroit News
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There’s nothing wrong with putting a ribbon-shaped magnet on the back of your SUV, but if you really want to Support Our Troops, come help out at the horseshoe pit.

Eight hundred men and women are expected to compete in the 30th National Veterans Golden Age Games in Metro Detroit this summer.

To make it happen, organizers say, they’ll need 2,500 to 3,000 volunteers. If you’ve ever groused that veterans are being neglected, or questioned why we have money for studying warthogs when vets need help, now’s your chance to jump in.

The athletes are veterans age 55 and over who are enrolled in VA health care. They’ll compete July 10-14 in events as varied as air rifle, nine-ball billiards and the 1,500-meter run.

Bringing to life the old saying about where close only counts, people who used to carry hand grenades will now pitch horseshoes.

Figure three days of it with two volunteers for each of two shifts at 40 pits, and that sport alone has 480 volunteer slots.

“We need a lot of hands on deck,” says the Detroit VA Healthcare System’s William Browning, who, despite his choice of phrase, is actually a veteran of the Army.

The tasks begin with handling baggage at the airport. Genial helpers will need to keep competitors hydrated, keep them from getting lost and keep score.

To sign up, find the Volunteer button at or call Browning at (313) 576-1000. To enter, as did 112 Michiganians, wait until next year; registration has closed.

Browning attended the 2015 games in Omaha, Nebraska, and met some 93-year-old World War II veterans who promised they’d return for Detroit. They were in the 1-mile power walk, which Browning says “gets a little crowded.”

As with the sports themselves, there’s a wide variety among the competitors, who hail from all 50 states, Puerto Rico and Guam. Some have disabilities, some look like recruiting posters, some are mostly in it to be social, and some are fire-breathing former Marines.

The main venues are Cobo Center and Wayne State, with golf at Lakes of Taylor, bowling at Thunderbowl in Allen Park and Skore Lanes in Taylor, and volunteers required everywhere.

“It’ll be very easy,” Browning promises. “You’ll get to have some fun, too.”

And when it’s over, you can wear your Support Our Troops magnet like a medal.

Demand is undiminished

Continuing in military mode, be advised that the two-week Big Library Read will march along through March 31.

The Big Library Read is a free program designed to temporarily deposit hundreds of thousands of people around the world into the same book club. But that’s not the military part.

It’s organized by OverDrive, a company whose work you might well have experienced even if you’ve never heard of it. That’s not the military part, either.

The military component is the somewhat curious selection for the Big Library Read:

“American Sniper” by the late Chris Kyle.

As a Navy SEAL, Kyle became the deadliest sniper in the history of the U.S. military. His book was a mammoth bestseller, and whereas libraries typically only own a few copies, you can access it as a Big Library Read selection no matter how many others already have.

You simply need a library card or student ID valid at an OverDrive-powered library, which most are. The list is at

All good so far. But Jesse Ventura, the pro wrestler turned governor of Minnesota, won a defamation suit over an alleged brawl in the book that he and a jury agreed did not happen.

That doesn’t take away from Kyle’s accomplishments or his bravery in Iraq, but you’d think it might make librarians shy away from the book.

Instead, says marketing director David Burleigh of OverDrive, they chose it from a list of finalists and made it the Big Library Read.

What that suggests is that the demand for “American Sniper” remains fierce. Now the supply is unlimited, at least through the end of the month.

Happy reading, and remember — if you’re holding an e-book, you’re not at the library. You don’t have to shush.


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