From Combat To Conquest: 8 Vets Who Crushed The World's Highest Peaks

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AP photo via The Salt Lake Tribune's Leah Hogsten

Every year, around 800 people try to climb Mount Everest. And nearly 25,000 attempt Mount Kilimanjaro, while thousands of others seek glory atop mounts McKinley, Lobuche, Aconcagua, and Denali in epic feats of man versus mountain.


Recently, however, those numbers have begun to include U.S. military veteran climbers, who summit these incredible peaks to honor those that gave the ultimate sacrifice, or to prove that even combat injuries like loss of limb can’t keep them down.

Here are eight inspiring veterans who have successfully climbed epic summits.

Marine Corps Sgt. Julian Torres

Sgt. Julian Torres was in Afghanistan on July 15, 2010, when an improvised explosive device detonated below him and cost him both legs. He had them replaced with prosthetics, and learned to walk again. After hearing about a friend, also a double amputee, who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, Torres decided he wanted to also. Through the Heroes Project, Julian was able to reach the top of Mount Kilimanjaro on Nov. 11, 2015 — Veterans Day.

Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Charlie Linville

Former U.S. Marine Charlie Linville, left, and his climbing partner Tim Medvetz sit for an interview with the Associated Press in Kathmandu, Nepal.AP photo by Niranjan Shrestha

Staff Sgt. Charlie Linville was defusing bombs in Afghanistan in 2011 when an improvised explosive device cost him his right leg below the knee. On a prosthetic leg, and with the help of the Heroes Project — a non-profit organization that helps wounded veterans reach summits — Linville climbed Mount Everest on May 19, 2016. While other amputees have reached the 29,029-foot summit before, he is the first combat amputee to make it to the top.

Army Staff Sgt. Chad Jukes, 2nd Lt. Harold Earls, and Capt. Elyse Ping Medvigy

Staff Sgt. Chad Jukes lost part of his right leg after a roadside bomb explosion in Iraq in 2006. He underwent a series of surgeries to save the leg; however, they were unsuccessful and the limb was amputated below his knee in 2013. He paired up with active-duty service members 2nd Lt. Harold Earls and Capt. Elyse Ping Medvigy to climb Mount Everest. Jukes attempted the climb in 2014 and 2015, but was unable to finish due to hazardous conditions.

Earls co-founded U.S. Expeditions and Explorations , a nonprofit intended to help veterans through exploration and research. He came up with the idea while he was attending West Point. After graduating in 2015, Earls launched USX in 2015 with an ambitious first expedition — climbing Mount Everest.

A 2012 West Point graduate, Capt. Elyse Ping Medvigy signed on with Earls and Jukes in their quest to conquer Mt. Everest. Along the way, she contracted a nasty intestinal infection, but refused to stop climbing. She suffered three days, but still managed to make it to the top of the peak, making her the first active-duty female soldier to scale Everest. The group made it to the summit on on May 24, 2016. Jukes was surpassed by Charlie Linville as the first combat amputee to complete the summit by only a few days.

Army Pfc. Steve Baskis

Steve Baskis, Jeff Evans, and Dan Sidles on Mount LobuchePhoto via Flickr

In 2007,  Pfc. Steve Baskis enlisted to become an Army Green Beret. Eight months into his first deployment, a roadside bomb left Baskis blind, with a fractured nose and skull, severe burns, a severed artery and impaired nerves in his right leg and left arm. With the help of guides, he has climbed mountains all over the world including the Russian Caucasus, Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Evans, and the Himalayan Mount Lobuche, which is less than nine miles below Mount Everest.

Army Spc. Bryan Wagner and Lance Cpl. Nancy Schiliro

While assigned to 529th military police company, Spc. Bryan Wagner lost a leg to a bomb in Iraq in 2007. Lance Cpl. Nancy Schiliro lost her eye to a mortar attack in 2005 while deployed to Iraq. In 2011, they, along with veterans Ben Lunak, Michael Wilson, partnered up with Wounded Warrior Project and former New England Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi, Tennessee Titans coach and former Chicago Bears player Jeff Fisher, and former Philadelphia Eagles and St. Louis Rams player Chad Lewis to scale Mount Kilimanjaro. Though Lunak and Wilson were not able to reach the summit, the rest did, completing the climb on May 18, 2011.

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Benjamin Franklin nailed it when he said, "Fatigue is the best pillow." True story, Benny. There's nothing like pushing your body so far past exhaustion that you'd willingly, even longingly, take a nap on a concrete slab.

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DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump traveled to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Saturday to receive the remains of four Americans killed in a suicide bombing in northern Syria.

Trump, locked in a battle with congressional Democrats that has led to a nearly month-long partial government shutdown, announced his trip via a pre-dawn tweet, saying he was going "to be with the families of 4 very special people who lost their lives in service to our Country!"

Trump told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House prior to departure that he planned to meet the families, a duty which he said "might be the toughest thing I have to do as president."

He was greeted by military staff at Dover Air Force Base after a short flight from Joint Base Andrews, but did not speak to reporters before entering his motorcade.

Flanked by military officials, Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan filed up a ramp leading onto a military transport aircraft, where a prayer was given to honor the memory of Scott Wirtz, a civilian Department of Defense employee from St. Louis.

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Trump filed down the plank and saluted while six service members clad in fatigues and white gloves carried an American flag-draped casket carrying Wirtz to a waiting gray van.

The Dover base is a traditional hub for returning the remains of American troops abroad.

The United States believes the attack that killed the Americans was the work of Islamic State militants.

Trump announced last month that he planned to speedily withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, but has since said it does not need to go quickly as he tries to ensure safety of Kurdish allies in northern Syria who are at risk of attack from neighboring Turkey.

Trump told reporters on Saturday that his Syria policy has made progress but that some work remained in destroying Islamic State targets. He defended his plans for a withdrawal.

"It's moving along very well, but when I took over it was a total mess. But you do have to ask yourself, we're killing ISIS for Russia, for Iran, for Syria, for Iraq, for a lot of other places. At some point you want to bring our people back home," he said.

In addition to Wirtz, those who died during the Wednesday attack in Manbij, Syria, were Army Chief Warrant Officer Jonathan Farmer, 37, of Boynton Beach, Florida, and Navy Chief Cryptologic Technician Shannon Kent, 35, identified as being from upstate New York, the Department of Defense said in a statement.

The Pentagon did not identify the fourth person killed, a contractor working for a private company. U.S. media identified her as Ghadir Taher, a 27-year-old employee of defense contractor Valiant Integrated Services.

(Reporting by Alexandra Alper; Writing by Steve Holland and David Brunnstrom; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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