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

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From left, Eric Gray and veterans Andrew "Sully" Sullen and Nico Maroulis share a moment of silence as their friend and fellow veteran Chad Jukes plays "Taps" atop the Grand Teton at 13,770-feet on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012.
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.

An Austrian Jagdkommando K9 unit conducts training (Austrian Armed Forces photo)

An Austrian soldier was apparently killed by two military working dogs that he was charged with feeding, the Austrian Ministry of Defense announced on Thursday.

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Conflict photographer Lynsey Addario has seen a hell of a lot of combat over the past twenty years. She patrolled Afghanistan's Helmand Province with the Marines, accompanied the Army on night raids in Baghdad, took artillery fire with rebel fighters in Libya, and has taken photos in countless other wars and humanitarian disasters around the world.

Along the way, Addario captured images of plenty of women serving with pride in uniform, not only in the U.S. armed forces, but also on the battlefields of Syria, Colombia, South Sudan and Israel. Her photographs are the subject of a new article in the November 2019 special issue of National Geographic, "Women: A Century of Change," the magazine's first-ever edition written and photographed exclusively by women.

The photos showcase the wide range of goals and ideals for which these women took up arms. Addario's work includes captivating vignettes of a seasoned guerrilla fighter in the jungles of Colombia; a team of Israeli military police patrolling the streets of Jerusalem; and a unit of Kurdish women guarding ISIS refugees in Syria. Some fight to prove themselves, others seek to ignite social change in their home country, and others do it to liberate other women from the grip of ISIS.

Addario visited several active war zones for the piece, but she found herself shaken by something much closer to home: the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, South Carolina.

Addario discussed her visit to boot camp and her other travels in an interview with Task & Purpose, which has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

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My brother earned the Medal of Honor for saving countless lives — but only after he was left for dead

"As I learned while researching a book about John, the SEAL ground commander, Cmdr. Tim Szymanski, had stupidly and with great hubris insisted on insertion being that night."

Opinion

Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.

Air Force Master Sgt. John "Chappy" Chapman is my brother. As one of an elite group, Air Force Combat Control — the deadliest and most badass band of brothers to walk a battlefield — John gave his life on March 4, 2002 for brothers he never knew.

They were the brave men who comprised a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) that had been called in to rescue the SEAL Team 6 team (Mako-30) with whom he had been embedded, which left him behind on Takur Ghar, a desolate mountain in Afghanistan that topped out at over 10,000 feet.

As I learned while researching a book about John, the SEAL ground commander, Cmdr. Tim Szymanski, had stupidly and with great hubris insisted on insertion being that night. After many delays, the mission should and could have been pushed one day, but Szymanski ordered the team to proceed as planned, and Britt "Slab" Slabinski, John's team leader, fell into step after another SEAL team refused the mission.

But the "plan" went even more south when they made the rookie move to insert directly atop the mountain — right into the hands of the bad guys they knew were there.

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Photo: ABC News/screenshot

Federal court judge Reggie Walton in Washington D.C. has ruled Hoda Muthana, a young woman who left her family in Hoover, Alabama, to join ISIS, is not a U.S. citizen, her attorneys told AL.com Thursday.

The ruling means the government does not recognize her a citizen of the United States, even though she was born in the U.S.

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Editor's Note: This article by Gina Harkins originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. -- The Marine Corps could train as many as eight co-ed companies at boot camp each year, and the general overseeing the effort is hitting back against those complaining that the move is lowering training standards.

"Get over it," Maj. Gen. William Mullen, the head of Training and Education Command told Military.com on Thursday. "We're still making Marines like we used to. That has not changed."

Mullen, a career infantry officer who has led troops in combat — including in Fallujah, Iraq — said Marines have likely been complaining about falling standards since 1775.

"I'm assuming that the second Marine walking into Tun Tavern was like 'You know ... our standards have gone down. They're just not the same as it they used to be,'" Mullen said, referring to the service's famous birthplace. "That has always been going on in the history of the Marine Corps."

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