This week, an expedition is heading up Mount Everest with a unique team.
For the first time ever, active duty U.S. Army Soldiers will summit. It will also be the first time a combat-wounded U.S. Army Veteran will reach the top. However, a lot has to fall into place to make this happen.
The team is USX Expeditions and Explorations.
Harold Earls, an Infantry officer at Fort Benning, Georgia and former West Forsyth High School graduate, co-founded the team. He came up with the idea when he was a cadet at West Point just a year and a half ago. His gear includes cold weather boots and trekking poles. But, the heart of the mission is revealed with a look at his helmet, which is covered with names of Soldiers.
“The names are really personal to me. A lot of these names are from Soldiers who have struggled with post traumatic stress or even took their lives," said Earls.
Earls wants the climb to bring awareness to mental health issues suffered by service members. If hard training pays off, the summit of Everest will see for the first time ever, two active duty U.S. Soldiers and a wounded Army Veteran.
The team practiced at places like Mount Rainier. Along with Earls, the other active duty U.S. Soldier is Army First Lieutenant Elyse Ping Mevidgy. Retired Army Staff Sgt. Chad Jukes takes on the climb with a prosthetic leg. He lost his right leg in an explosion in Iraq.
“There are wounds other than physical wounds and some of my mentors and some of the Soldiers I began serving with...they had struggled and are struggling with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder),” said Earls. “Being able to reflect on their names and take their names, hopefully to the summit of Mount Everest, is our goal.”
You can track their progress by going to these links:
Hastags: #TeamUSX #PTSD
If you would like to donate to USX Veterans Everest Expedition to support PTSD and soldier suicide, click here.
Photos courtesy of USX.vet