Veteran's Day. A day we take the time to honor and thank the ones that have put their lives on the line for our freedoms and safety.
To me, this Veteran's Day was especially unique. A few weeks ago, I had the unbelievable opportunity to go on a hike with 13 veterans from all different branches of the military. The hike was sponsored by Rise Broadband and led by No Barriers Warriors, a non-profit organization that helps military men and woman overcome obstacles in their lives.
To say I was excited is an understatement. It took a while to wrap my head around being chosen to go on such an adventure. I also didn't know if I was physically in shape enough to tackle such a hike. It was over 24 miles in 4 days, with a 14,000 foot ascent.
I called a friend and asked him to be my second camera man. Looking back, I don't know how I could have done the trip without Asa Schultz. His creativity and strength were one of the biggest things that got me through the physical toll the trip demanded.
I could go into many details about the trip, but No Barriers Warriors and I are working on a few videos for the future that will tell the story so much better. I just wanted to post a little something about the men and woman I had the honor of knowing and experiencing "The Suck" with.
This guy trucked all over the mountains with those two poles. His attitude was so positive the entire time. I think he might have gotten sick with some wicked sounding cough, but he didn't let that phase him, and hiked with not one complaint. Not one.
He not only took the trail at great speeds but also took a challenge that only two participates accepted: taking on TWO 14er peaks. Mt. Belford and Mt Oxford. In one day. Boom.
Mike was one of the first guys to make sure I was ok with the "smoking and joking". With me being a skinny, self-employed, nerdy home-schooler that thought I could hang in the mountains, I was ripe for jokes and taunting. Mike made sure I knew the joking was just because I was being accepted and everybody felt comfortable around me. Besides the rather vulgar new nicknames, I loved it.
Ed took the challenge of the hike with great ferocity. Somewhere around 10-12k ft he got hit with some pretty hardcore altitude sickness. The difficult choice had to be made to hike out, which wasn't easy because it was 10 miles until reaching road access. 10 miles with 3 of them being in the dark. Did I mention that he did all this while experiencing altitude sickness?
This amazing woman became such an inspiration to me. All she wanted to do was help people. She realized on the trip, that in order to do that, she first had to ask for help sometimes herself. That spoke volumes to me, a person who sometimes struggles with the same attitude.
Shay and his amazing companion Mckinley took the trip to a whole new level. Shay gave me advice on so many things, such as where I should vacation early in marriage, how to take charge of situations, and even quality of life attitudes. His talks were fantastic. His four legged partner trotting beside your heals was the icing on the cake.
Betty set a pace and stuck with it the entire time. Just like her personality, she was constant, dependable, and determined. It was actually a little difficult to photograph her in the woods due to her camouflage clothes. One of the biggest surprises was on day 4 when Betty finally reached an altitude where she could breath comfortably, her pace easily doubled. I mean, she FLEW down the mountain.
Philip was fantastic. We hit it off quite quickly and exchanged social media profiles and talked about different hobbies. When the jokes started flying, he was one of the only vets that didn't join in the fun....until after the hike. It was impressive some of the stuff he came up with. I wasn't even mad. Maybe a little. Just kidding. But seriously.
The second of the crew that summited two 14er peaks. This guy enjoyed the solitude of the hike and the stillness of the mountain. He didn't mind me ruining those moments with running around with my camera trying to capture him enjoying his "solitude". When he told me, "Man, you fit right in with us", it really took me back. I didn't really think I could hang with these heroes, but they took me in.
Jesse took these peaks by the horns. I mean he literally tore through the trail as hard as he could. All of this with a smile, a few inappropriate jokes, and a servant's attitude. He was one of the first to carry gear from people's packs when they needed it. He trusted me with some incredible stories and family traditions that both honored and humbled me.
Josh was our expedition leader. Josh puts the veterans first in everything. He doesn't just push you, but also makes sure the changes you are experiencing out here can be applied to your life back home. His strength and his trustworthiness let some of the most real human moments happen between all of us. I haven't witnessed such camaraderie in all my life, and I believe a lot of that was because of Josh.
Margaux was our second expedition leader. This lady kicked my butt the hardest. She pushed me every time I felt like slowing down or taking a break. She taught me proper breathing techniques so I didn't pass out. She also made fun of me RELENTLESSLY. It was like I was her favorite. Actually, I'm positive I was her favorite.
Meeting this strongman competitor was pretty much one of the best things that happened on the trip. He was our third expedition leader. He always had your back. Seriously. When you were moments away from falling backwards because of the weight you carried, he literally had your back. He encouraged everybody along the way, telling them how great they were doing, but also how they could dig deeper. You could always go harder according to Jeremy. That mindset is something I have really tried to apply to my every day now that I'm back.
Thank you guys for letting me be apart of your lives and this adventure. Thank you again to No Barriers Warriors for such an opportunity. It was a privilege and an honor to be able to be with you and to get to know you. Thank you for everything you have done, do, and will continue to do in the future.