Remember Operation Denali? On June 1st a team of four wounded warriors began their journey to the top of Mount McKinley, the tallest mountain in America. Their goals (in addition to making it to the summit) were:
1. To raise awareness for the needs of severely injured service men and women
2. To work together to overcome our physical limitations and achieve a common goal made to seem insurmountable by the impact of our injuries on our lives
3. To demonstrate by performance and example that no obstacle is so great that the human spirit cannot overcome it
The team consists of four wounded warriors:
Matt Nyman – he lost a leg in Iraq
Jon Kuniholm – he lost an arm in Iraq
David Shebib – a roadside bomb severed his carotid artery and caused a stroke
Marc Hoffmeister – a roadside bomb severely injured his left arm
Gayle Hoffmeister and Bob Haines – team mentors
A couple of days ago, the team reached the summit! Two of them, Matt Nyman and Jon Kuniholm, suffered from pulminary problems at high altitude and didn’t summit, but they got close – around 17000 feet. Note that it was lack of oxygen that prevented them from getting to the top – not their prosthetics. The other four made it and the whole team is on the way back down.
What an accomplishment! Technical climbing is out of reach for most of us with full use of our limbs, and these athletes did it in spite of loss of limb and severe injury. My hat is off to all of them, not so much for reaching the top (although that was a great feat), but for achieving their goals.
Congratulations to Team Denali!