Wounded warriors summit Mt. Kilimanjaro

Wounded warriors summit Mt. Kilimanjaro

Mt. Kilimanjaro

Mt. Kilimanjaro//Wikimedia Commons [http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mt._Kilimanjaro_12.2006.JPG]

Last month, a group of once-and-current U.S. soldiers summited the highest point in Africa, Uhuru Peak, on Mt. Kilimanjaro.

At 19,340 feet, the mountain is sometimes called the “roof of Africa.” It’s one of the world’s Seven Summits.

Summiting Kilimanjaro, in and of itself, is not a terribly demanding feat, despite high altitude and low temperatures near the top. In 2012, nearly 52,000 people hiked the mountain.

But what made this particular climb remarkable was who completed it. Six of the soldiers were wounded warriors, lower limb amputees.

They call themselves the Kilimanjaro Warriors. They have a blog, which details their preparation and their journey, and a Facebook page, complete with updates, photos and more. A documentary of their 8-day ascent up the world’s largest free-standing mountain is in the works.

Recently, ABC News covered the Kilimanjaro Warriors. That story can be found here and a gallery of their photos can be found here.

The feat accomplished by these wounded warriors serves to show how much life our soldiers have left to live even in the face of limb difference. It also serves to show how important it is that we continue to conduct research and develop new and better ways to serve them well into the future.

One of the climbers, Sergeant Kisha Makerney, Army National Guard, lost her leg in a motorcycle accident on break from her first tour of Iraq. She soon returned for a second tour, becoming the first female amputee to return to combat.

Steve Martin served as a military policeman, spending eight years on active duty and in the national guard. In 2008, Martin’s Hummer was hit by an IED in Afghanistan. After 14 surgeries, he became a double below-the-knee amputee in 2009. In addition to Kilimanjaro, Martin has climbed Mt. McKinley (Denali) and is a triathlete.

In the ABC news story, Martin speaks to his motivations, which is also what motivates us here at the BADER Consortium:

“Just because the war is ending, doesn’t mean our pain and scars are gone,” Martin said. “But we still want to be part of society and part of our communities. I had to take a chance in life and get my mobility back and get rid of the pain.”

We hope to continue to help soldiers reach their peak, wherever that may be.