By Robert Whetstone
Brooke Army Medical Center Public Affairs

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. - After nine days of intense competition at the 2018 Department of Defense Warrior Games, athletes came together for one final event; the closing ceremony, June 9, 2018, inside the Holaday Athletic Center, at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Approximately 300 athletes representing teams from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Special Operations Command, United Kingdom Armed Forces, Canadian Armed Forces, and the Australian Defence Force competed in archery, cycling, track, field, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, wheelchair basketball, powerlifting and indoor rowing.

U.S. Air Force Vice Chief Of Staff Gen. Stephen Wilson praised not only the athletes but family, caregivers, and coaches for being the hidden heroes. The success of the games was not which team won the most medals, but the impact they make on participants and spectators, year in and year out.

"You ae the spirit of these games," said actor/comedian Jon Stewart. "You make me want to be a better person." The Air Force presented Stewart a signed banner with all the athletes' names signed across the canvas. Stewart thanked them for giving him something he could get through the airport. "It's one of the great honors of my life to be able to share some time with you all and to have you warmly welcome me," he said.

At the end of Warrior Games, it has become customary to identify and award the individual athlete deemed the "Ultimate Champion." To earn the Ultimate Champion title, athletes compete in their respective functional classifications in eight sporting events. Each service branch is allotted two slots. Ultimate Champion athletes earn points based on their individual results in the events. The Ultimate Champion is the athlete who earned the most points in the eight sporting events.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ross Alewine took first place, squeezing by U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Rafael Morfinencisco by just four points. "It feels amazing but I just want to say I couldn't have done it without the support of my kids, my family, my friends and especially my coaches and the support from Team Army," said Alewine. "I've worked very hard. I put in a lot of time and effort and it paid off tonight." U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Altermese Kendrick placed third.

Every team has that one person who inspires and motivates their teammates to be their best. Warrior Games bestows an honor to that individual and calls it the Heart of the Team award. It is awarded to one member on each team who best exemplified character, integrity and sportsmanship. Each team chooses who receives the award.

For the U.S. Army, the Heart of the Team award was given to Spc. Brent Garlic "This is completely surprising," said a shocked Garlic. "These are my people. I've got no words. It's awesome. I love it!"

On June 10, athletes, family members and staff will make an exodus back to their homes and their 'day jobs.' There will be hugs and tears in front of hotels and at airport gates. Many will find themselves on the same flight back to their home state, enhancing their kinship in the brotherhood called U.S. Service Member.

Phone numbers and social media contact information will be shared. The cheering didn't cease at the closing ceremony...it was just the beginning. New goals will be set, and undoubtedly achieved by the men and women who gave and continue to give so much to the nation. One of those goals may be a return trip to Warrior Games next year.

The U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) will host the 2019 Department of Defense (D0D) Warrior Games June 22-30 in Tampa, Fla.

For more information about Warrior Games and the results of the event go to: https://dodwarriorgames.com/games-results/2018-results/