Wounded Warriors Aim For The “Top”

August 19, 2008

I’ve always said that anything you set your mind to, you can achieve, with a bit of determination and hard work. Every day, many of our Wounded Warriors are proving that correct, in the things they undertake. So many of them have injuries that have altered their lives, yet, they’ve not let those injuries stop them from living full and productive lives. In fact, for many of them, the challenges they face in regards to their injuries, are just the tip of the iceberg, when it comes to the things that they challenge themselves with.

In the state of Alaska, a team of wounded warriors are currently training to reach the “top.” You might wonder what I’m referring to, so I’ll tell you. The team of wounded warriors are currently training to reach the top of Mount McKinley. Their hopes are that next summer, they will spend a good portion of the time assaulting the mountain. The team, led by Army Major Marc Hoffmeister are planning the climb and currently training to climb the mountain, which is North America’s highest mountain peak. They’ve named the climb, “Operation Denali 2009.” There are 3 objectives that the service members have for the climb. Those are:

* To raise awareness for the needs of severely injured service men and women.
* To work together to overcome their physical limitations and achieve a common goal made to seem insurmountable by the impact of their injuries on their lives.
* To demonstrate by performance and example, that no obstacle is so great the human spirit cannot overcome it.1

Hoffmeister was injured in Iraqi in April 2007, when he was serving with the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division. The vehicle he was riding in was hit by a roadside bomb. Hoffmeister lost half the muscle mass and five inches of the ulnar nerve in his left arm. His arm is now titanium from the elbow to the wrist. He still faces more surgeries in the future.2

“My body is still intact, sort of. Not all of my men were so lucky,” he wrote in an online article forthe Web site dedicated to the McKinley mission.

“I don’t have feeling in my left arm, leg or several fingers and can’t fully control it’s use,” he said. “As time crawls by, I struggle to rediscover my own ability. Slowly, I am gaining strength.”3

Every member of the team is a military member who was severely wounded in the Global War on Terrorism. In a recent training mission, the team spent 12 days on Pika Glacier in an area of the Denali National Park that is known as Little Switzerland. There they trained on roped team movement on the glaciers, camping in winter conditions, self arresting, crevasse rescues and other skills that will be necessary for them to successful complete the high altitude mountaineering they’re planning for next summer.

Each team member is challenged by not only the difficult terrain they face and the dangers that go along with it, but the limitations that are created as a result of their injuries. Some of the Soldiers participating are amputees and must adapt the climbing techniques for use with their prosthetic.

I can honestly say that I was extremely amazed at what these service members will be doing next summer. As always, I’m humbled and proud of the courage, determination and dedication they show, in the face of their injuries. Please visit the team’s website and learn more about Operation Denali 2009.

Operation Denali 2009

  1. http://www.army.mil/-news/2008/08/12/11612-wounded-warriors-train-to-climb-mount-mckinley/ []
  2. http://www.army.mil/-news/2008/08/12/11612-wounded-warriors-train-to-climb-mount-mckinley/ []
  3. http://www.army.mil/-news/2008/08/12/11612-wounded-warriors-train-to-climb-mount-mckinley/ []


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