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Veterans climb to remember

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Jared Rund
  • 90th Logistics Readiness Squadron
I had the opportunity to climb the Grand Teton with six veterans who have served during conflicts ranging from 1991 through today as a part of "Summit to Remember - Grand Teton" Sept. 11 to reflect on the sacrifices made by military members and first responders since Sept. 11, 2001.

It was an honor to scale the rugged peak in the presence of such heroes. The team included a veteran missing fingers, another was an amputee below the knee, others suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, and a courageous Soldier who was awarded a Purple Heart for injuries sustained during three explosions in a two-month period while he was serving in Iraq in 2003.

The trip was made possible by Veterans Expeditions, The Sierra Club, Jackson Hole Mountain Guides and the American Alpine Club. We reached the summit at 8:03 a.m. on a sunny and clear morning, 10 years to the minute since the last plane slammed into the World Trade Center in New York City.

A recent study conducted by the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs revealed 18 veterans a day commit suicide. Veterans Expeditions, an organization started by Nick Watson and Stacy Bare, former Army soldiers, aims to reduce depression and suicide rates among veterans by reintroducing them to the outdoors on hiking and climbing expeditions.

The organization is now a huge success and has helped countless veterans turn their lives around after returning from service. Bare returned from a year in Iraq as a Special Operations captain in 2007 and found himself deeply depressed, battling drug addiction and on the brink of suicide.

His life completely turned around not because of prescription drugs or a psychologist but by simply climbing and accepting an invitation from a friend during this dark time in his life.

"It's not a stretch to say that saved my life," Bare said.

He later met Watson, a former climbing guide, through Veterans Green Jobs and the two decided to start Veterans Expeditions, based in Boulder, Colo.

Another member of the expedition was Aaron Plant, a former Navy quarter master and Laramie, Wyo., resident had this to say of the event, "I was able to leave things that have haunted me for years on that mountain. I went up with a great weight on my shoulders; coming down, I felt as if I could fly off the mountain."

The Sierra Club was also a vital supporting piece of the expedition. Through its Serve Outdoors program this September, the Sierra Club is proud to join Americans in the military and veteran communities across the country in honoring those who bravely serve our nation. America's great outdoors is a cornerstone of our national heritage that Americans who have served our country protected and should be able to enjoy just like generations before them.