November 23, 2011
Here in the United States, we are about to celebrate one of our most important holidays -- Thanksgiving. Thursday isn't about a religious celebration or national pride, it's simply a day to pause and give thanks for all that we are blessed. This seemed an appropriate time to check in with some of the team from last year's Soldiers To The Summit (S2S) expedition. Over the next few weeks, you will hear from some of the injured soldiers, and the climbing team who supported them, on what the program means to them.
Nicolette, a K9 handler in the Navy, spent over 3 years in a wheelchair after a wall collapsed on her in Iraq. For a frightfully long period, they weren't even sure she would walk again. Despite this daunting adversity, she has much to be thankful for.
Erik: It's been a year since you returned from Nepal, looking back, how do you view your experience?
Nicolette: As each month passes I am in awe of the blessings that came with the climb. The fact that so many people, including climbers and sponsors, were involved in the expedition is amazing. The Everest team worked so hard to prepare and guide us along the way. The fact that they wanted to give back to strangers when they could have easily decided to grab a beer or do a climb for themselves was very kind. It was an amazing experience and I am blessed to be part of it.
Erik: The goal of S2S is to help disabled soldiers redefine their sense of self after life-changing injuries. Do you feel this mission was accomplished?
Nicolette: It definitely gave another title or accomplishment between my name and my injury. I am not just the injured girl, I am a mountain climber as well.
Erik: Another goal of S2S is to help participants develop the tools and mindset to persevere and innovate their way through obstacles. Do you feel your Lobuche experience moved you in that direction?
Nicolette: I feel Lobuche was a test. There are so many people that are worried about disabled soldiers failing that they refuse to let us take risks. By allowing us to take this risk we were able to be successful. Even for those people that did not summit, the expedition allowed them to focus on accomplishing that goal. Setting small goals and working hard is a good life lesson and after we are injured many organizations seem to deprive us of it. The challenge was very hard and a wonderful opportunity.