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Hero Games Returns with Strong Participation, Excited Community

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Matt Meyer



Feature  •
Campus Life  •
One Hero Games competitor carrying another on his shoulders

For Jason Tipler, president of the Student Veterans Association, few things bring him more joy than a fraternity member puking—only because it means they were putting everything they had into the Hero Games.

The University of Denver’s Student Veterans Association, alongside members of Veterans and Military Resources, saw a strong turnout in the revived Hero Games, which took place Oct. 21 on the Campus Green as part of Homecoming. It was first iteration of the event since 2019, which features four-person teams competing in a series of military-themed fitness challenges to honor fallen service members.

“It was amazing seeing everybody, including people you maybe wouldn’t expect to take something super seriously, give their all,” Tipler says. “I have a bunch of friends who have died who I think about during these events. Just seeing everybody giving everything they had, that made me extremely happy.”

The initial goal was to field four teams of four to take part in the challenges, but the event ended up drawing seven. They competed in four different workouts which covered different areas of the armed forces. Operation JTAC included an overhead log press, farmer’s carry and ruck march. Operation Trident featured alternating log lunges, a log chest carry and log sit-ups. Operation Recon was an ammo can press, shuttle run and burpees, while Operation Ranger included buddy carries, mountain climbers and push-ups. The event also included a speech from Marine veteran Sam Hickey to set the tone for the proceedings.

Veteran Support Specialist Sammy Ortiz says despite pushing competitors to their physical limits, the event was held safely and he was impressed by the perseverance shown.

“They were arduous exercises for people who aren’t used to it,” Ortiz says. “To see that the majority of people coming out were students versus veterans was really cool. It shows that there is a community here who wants to get involved and they’re receptive to doing more events with us. Hopefully, as we continue to grow our community, we can get more communication as well.”

SVA communications officer Caleb Smith added that it was heartening to see folks from all walks of life taking part in the event.

“We had veterans, we had people who had no affiliation with the military at all,” Smith says. They just came to give it their all.”

Veterans and Military Resources is partnering with DU athletics to show a short video of the Hero Games at upcoming hockey matches. Lambda Chi Alpha, the fraternity that fielded the winning team, will be recognized as part of DU Veterans Hockey Night on Nov. 17, and the event includes a reception at 5:30 p.m. before the puck drops against University of Nebraska Omaha at 7 p.m. Military Appreciation Night follows on Nov. 18, against UNO at 6 p.m.

On Dec. 9, Veterans and Military Resources is partnering with the Travis Manion Foundation for Ruck for a Clause, where student veterans march with donated toys to a local children’s hospital. They’ll begin collecting for the event on the week of Nov. 13 with donation boxes in Driscoll Commons, the Burwell Center and Mary Reed.

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