Save this content for laterSave this content on your device for later, even while offline Sign in with FacebookSign in with your Facebook account Close

Paul Klee: Staff Sgt. Ross Alewine and Warrior Games athletes earned this round of applause at Air Force Academy

By: Paul Klee
May 31, 2018 Updated: June 2, 2018 at 5:38 pm
0
Caption +
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ross Alewine, a competitor in the DoD Warrior Games, concentrates before shooting during wheelchair basketball practice, Colorado Springs, Colorado, May 29, 2018. The DoD Warrior Games is an adaptive sports competition for wounded, ill, and injured service members and veterans. 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 will compete June 1 - June 9 in archery, cycling, track, field, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, wheelchair basketball, and - new this year - powerlifting and indoor rowing. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Kalie Frantz)

The reason I’m going to watch Ross Alewine at the Warrior Games is pretty simple. Everything the Army staff sergeant has done in life has been for somebody else. It’s time he got his own round of applause.

The four Achilles tendon ruptures. The debilitating hip injury. The traumatic brain injury and crushing effects of post-traumatic stress disorder. All that pain and loss, and Alewine still says he would, if he could, return to Iraq and Afghanistan alongside his brothers and sisters. 

“In a heartbeat, without a doubt," Alewine said Thursday. "I love this country. I love America. And I do it so my family doesn’t have to.”

That’s why I’m going to watch the Warrior Games that begin Friday at the Air Force Academy. Because we didn’t have to.

“On my last deployment I was in charge of 10 soldiers,” Alewine says, “and I brought 10 soldiers back.”

Roughly 300 wounded, injured or ill athletes representing the Air Force, Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Special Operations, U.K. Armed Forces, Australian Defence Force and Canadian Armed Forces are scheduled to compete in 11 adaptive sports at the Warrior Games. Bring a loud voice, handshake and a tissue, because you’ll need all three.

Each athlete packs a personalized explanation of “why.”

For Alewine, the Warrior Games are a source of inspiration — for others, again.

“Me being there, it shows guys who are in the same spot that I was in, the guys who might not be doing so well after they came back, that you can come back,” he says. “I want them to see that if I did it, they can.”

You can't miss the 6-foot-5, 235-pound powerlifter.

"I'll be the oversized guy trying to pick up the world," he says.

For Army staff Sgt. Altermese Kendrick, motivation comes from her late mother. It was in 2011 that Alice Gladley was diagnosed with a terminal illness, but not until Sept. 9, 2017 that she passed: “Only woman I know who could’ve fought that thing for seven years,” Kendrick says.

180528-A-KH215-0270
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Altermese Kendrick, a participant in the DoD Warrior Games 2018, takes aim at her target during shooting practice, Fort Carson, Colorado, May 28, 2018. The DoD Warrior Games is an adaptive sports competition for wounded, ill, and injured service members and veterans. 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 will compete June 1 - June 9 in archery, cycling, track, field, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, wheelchair basketball, and - new this year - powerlifting and indoor rowing. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Kalie Frantz) 

Her mom was a “fitness nut” who could wear her original wedding dress after eight kids and almost 30 years. Kendrick competed in the Warrior Games last year, sending photos of her medals back home to Mom: “Every time I do something I send it up to her remembrance,” she says.

Kendrick is registered to compete in seven events at the Warrior Games. Running  and jumping cause the most pain in her surgically repaired hip — “I’ve learned pain is only pain” — but wheelchair racing ranks as a close second.

“I learned that the best of me is from my Mom. There’s nothing I do that I don’t think of her,” she says. “She always said she was my biggest fan. I’d like to believe that she’s watching now.”

I’m not as cool as your Mom, staff sergeant, but I’ll be watching.

What about you?

“This is going to be the best Games we’ve ever had,” said Scott Danberg, director of sports for the Warrior Games and a former gold medalist at the U.S. Paralympics Track and Field championships.

The why for Beth Grauer of Team Marine Corps is unique, too. She lives in Pueblo. Her personal motivation stems from a desire to climb the ladder and eventually compete in the Paralympic Games. Last year at the Warrior Games she set a personal record in the discus, and this time around she aims to improve her times in the 50- and 100-meter freestyle and relay swimming events.

180526-M-GX711-0383
U.S. Marine Corps veteran Beth Grauer throws a discus during a 2018 DoD Warrior Games field practice at Cheyenne Mountain High School in Colorado Springs, Colo., May 27, 2018. The Warrior Games is an adaptive sports competition for wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Drew Tech) 

“Everybody has something they can offer somebody else as far as adaptability and recovery,” says Grauer, who returned from tours in Iraq with a TBI and post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Her service dog, Calli, a Lab mix, will be at her side at the Warrior Games.

“At night when I have nightmares she wakes me up,” Grauer says.

Admission to the Warrior Games is free. Why they're here wasn't.

Twitter: @bypaulklee

Register to the Colorado Springs Gazette
Incognito Mode Your browser is in Incognito mode

You vanished!

We welcome you to read all of our stories by signing into your account. If you don't have a subscription, please subscribe today for daily award winning journalism.

Register to the Colorado Springs Gazette
Subscribe to the Colorado Springs Gazette

It appears that you value local journalism. Thank you.

Subscribe today for unlimited digital access with 50% fewer ads for a faster browsing experience.

Already a Subscriber? LOGIN HERE

Wake up with today's top stories in your inbox

Wake up with today's top stories in your inbox

or
Already a print subscriber?
Already a digital subscriber?
 
This is your last FREE article for the month
This is your last FREE article for the month

Subscribe now and enjoy Unlimited Digital Access to Gazette.com

Only 99 cents for Unlimited Digital Access for 1 month
Then $2.31/week, billed monthly, cancel anytime
Already a print subscriber?
Already a digital subscriber?

 
You have reached your article limit for the month
You have reached your article limit for the month

We hope that you've enjoyed your complimentary access to Gazette.com

Only 99 cents for Unlimited Digital Access for 1 month
Then $2.31/week, billed monthly, cancel anytime
Already a print subscriber?
Already a digital subscriber?
 

Exclusive Subscriber Content

You read The Gazette because you care about your community and the local stories you can't find anywhere else.

Only 99 cents for Unlimited Digital Access for 1 month
Then $2.31/week, billed monthly, cancel anytime
Already a print subscriber? Get Access | Already a digital subscriber? Log In
 
articles remaining
×
Thank you for your interest in local journalism.
Gain unlimited access, 50% fewer ads and a faster browsing experience.