My decision to check off one of the biggest items on my bucket list during my senior year at West Point was no easy move. Some people called me crazy, and sometimes I almost believed them, but with the support of my then-fiancé and now-wife Rachel, I knew I could do it. The thing was that I had no real mountain climbing experience outside of the Georgian mountains where the tallest peak doesn’t even reach 5,000 feet. I trained throughout the year and in 2016, I had the honor of helping lead the first active-duty team and combat-wounded veteran expedition to the summit of Mount Everest as a means to bring attention to PTSD and veteran suicide.
Facing The Descent Of Mount Everest
We share our story in the book “A Higher Calling: Pursuing Love, Faith and Mount Everest For a Greater Purpose.” The ascent was hard, but the descent was unimaginable; an entire story of its own. Climbing down Mount Everest was a constant fight for every next step to be a stable one. Every inch lower was agony, and the vicious wind reminded me just how much control I lacked with every sudden gust. The need to keep moving down the mountain at all costs, no matter how agonizing, was one thing I could control, so I focused every ounce of my concentration on each descending step.
I was afraid. The unthinkable reality was that I didn’t know for certain if I was going to make it back. I thought about how Rachel felt, 9,487 miles away, likely worried out of her mind about me. No force in the world was going to keep me from Rachel. Not coming home was simply not an option. Later as we wrote this book together, Rachel told me exactly what she was thinking at this moment, which was so powerful. Rachel said, “It would be easy to let fear take over, but I’m not going to allow fear to write my story. I won’t be controlled by my current circumstances. Tonight, I choose faith over fear. Just like I did this morning. Just like I will do again tomorrow and the next day and the next.”
When It Comes To Facing Any Crisis
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with the constant flow of often-conflicting opinions that surroud any crisis in your life. One thing piles on top of another until you reach your breaking point, but you have the power to change that. How often are our priorities backward? Now is a great time to center them back in on what’s truly important in life. Be informed, but don’t get consumed with the news. Don’t fuel your fears. Take all necessary action steps, but don’t let the fear consume you. When the worry feels overwhelming, turn to your faith and know that – especially in times of crisis – communication can be the difference between life and death. If you are worried, let it humble you and clearly communicate how you feel to keep things simple to understand in pivotal moments.
The world is facing an Everest right now. A moment when your own personal Everest stares you down, bigger and scarier than you ever could’ve imagined, is one you should hold on to because you can learn a lot. One thing I now know for sure is that life sometimes presents moments that feel impossible, but I also now know that when you overcome these challenges, you come out stronger.
We will all come out on the other side of this – stronger and with a story to tell.