TAMPA, Fla. — In the Amalie Arena on the evening of June 30, hundreds of supporters, fans and the families of wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans competing in the Department of Defense 2019 Warrior Games anxiously awaited the closing ceremony to begin. For most, the commencement of the closing ceremonies is bittersweet. For some, like the participating athletes, it marks the triumphant milestone of a mission accomplished.
Each participant in the 2019 DoD Warrior Games has had to overcome some form of extraordinary adversity, conquer their own specific challenges, and in many cases recover from what they may have been told was unrecoverable. For these brave athletes, the commencement of Warrior Games signifies defying all odds, no matter how insurmountable they may have seemed to be in the past.
To properly close out the Warrior Games, actor, comedian, producer and activist Jon Stewart returned to host the closing ceremony. Stewart gave a heartfelt dedication to recently deceased 9/11 responder, activist and former Marine Lou Alvarez as he told the Warrior Games athletes how much their dedication inspires others.
“As I watch you all together, the camaraderie, the teamwork, the family that you form, it inspires me and it reminds me of my friend Lou Alvarez, and my friend Ray Pfeifer and what they fought for, and I will always have your back, and I will always have their backs, because I know you guys will always have my back and have your communities’ backs,” Stewart remarked.
U.S. Army Gen. Richard Clarke, commanding general, United States Special Operations Command, MacDill Air Force Base, also spoke at the closing ceremony.
“I believe not only has Warrior Games saved our warriors’ lives, but it has saved families and strengthened our families. To all of our families, thank you very much. Our athletes, you have inspired us, we watched you in hundreds of competitions, we watched you get knocked down, we watched you get back up, we watched you laugh, we watched you cry, these were some incredible games,” Clarke said. “It has been an absolute honor for SOCOM to sponsor these games, so thank you.”
The coveted “Heart of the Team” Award goes to one member on each team whose teammates collectively felt best embodied the spirit of the DoD Warrior Games. Each team votes internally to select the recipient of the award. Prior to the presentation of this accolade during the closing ceremony, the chosen recipient is unaware that their teammates have selected them to receive the honor. The 2019 recipient of the “Heart of the Team” Award for Team Army was U.S. Army retired Staff Sgt. Matthew Lammers of Fairmont, North Carolina.
Members of Team Army also collected two of three coveted “Ultimate Champion” medals. To earn the Ultimate Champion title, athletes must compete in their respective functional classifications in eight sporting events. There are two slots allotted to each service branch for the prestigious honor. 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.
Retired Staff Sgt. Ross Alewine, of Williamston, South Carolina, was awarded the Bronze Ultimate Champion medal, and Capt. Casey Turner, of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, was awarded the Silver Ultimate Champion medal.
Also revealed during the closing ceremony, followed by a concert from multi-platinum singer Sara Evans, was the official announcement of the hosting destination of the upcoming 2020 DoD Warrior Games: San Antonio.
The 2019 DoD Warrior Games were held from June 21-30 in Tampa Bay, Florida. The athletes who participated in the competition are comprised of wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans representing the U.S. Army Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Special Operations Command. Athletes from the United Kingdom Armed Forces, Australian Defence Force, Canadian Armed Forces, Armed Forces of the Netherlands and the Danish Armed Forces also competed in this year’s DoD Warrior Games.