The American Ninja Warrior military finalists drove forward last night, competing for the chance to continue to the next round in Las Vegas. These competitors come from a variety of backgrounds and various branches of the armed forces. Many of them have overcome enormous challenges and make inspiring contributions to society. The stakes are big and competitors who moved on last night to complete the Vegas finals stand to win the American Ninja Warrior title, and one million bucks. Here are some highlights.

American Ninja Warrior Recap

Preston Griffall was the first contender and serves in the Army and is also a luger on the U.S. Olympics team. Griffall made it look easy until he went in the water at the salmon ladder. The same place he went down last year. Although he did not make any preparations to tackle this obstacle this time around, he claims to have “visualized” it.

Kyle Durand is a contestant who came face-to-face with Saddam Hussein himself. Part of his job in the Army was to make sure any prisoners held by U.S. and coaliton forces were being treated humanely. At one time, he even slept in the famous dictators bathtub in his palace in Baghdad, and lost a close friend at Fallujah. At 43, Durand is a business owner and works out six times a week. He made it as far as the the I-beam where he went down last year. This year was no different for the combat veteran.

Vincent Klapper is an NBA acrobat and entertainer for the Boston Celtics dunk team. He was also a Marine, along with his wife, who inspired him to compete because she could not. Klapper made it to the monkey pegs in qualifying, and made it just a little farther to the I-beam in the competition.

Matthew Jensen is an F-15 pilot who graduated from the Air Force Academy, a vocation that runs in his family, and a 39-year-old rookie on the Ninja Warrior obstacle course. Jensen was the only contestant to make it to the I-beam in qualifying, and with the crowd chanting his Air Force call sign, “Lobo,” he made it as far as the invisible ladder. He was able to fight his way up to 20 feet on the final obstacle and showed incredible perseverance.

Ryan Stratis (pictured above) is 5’10 and 145 pounds. The best strength to weight ratio seen this year. A former captain in the Army National Guard, Stratis is now a bearded personal trainer who has now made Ninja Warrior his life. Showing extreme balance, he made it as far as the invisible ladder, but made only as high as fifteen feet.

Christopher Moore is a prosthetist and although he is one of the oldest contestants, he is the most shredded. He made it to the swinging frames and shook his head at the distance between the two before falling in the water.

Dustin McKinney is 5’2” and 140 pounds. He says this the last time he will be competing in American Ninja Warrior, because in the next few years he will be deployed. McKinney made an efficient run using hooked arms, and lower body strength to conserve energy. He assured his spot in Vegas after making a smooth assent up the salmon ladder, and made himself the only finisher at the top of the in the invisible ladder. Making a strong display of his experience, McKinney will be in the next round in Vegas.