Advancing National Service

Cheer On These Inspiring Wounded Navy SEALs as They Reach for the Sky

April 29, 2014
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Cheer On These Inspiring Wounded Navy SEALs as They Reach for the Sky
Snow covers the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, where three Navy SEALS hope to stand after climbing Africa's tallest peak. Chris Jackson/Getty Images
Three veteran amputees prepare to climb Africa's highest mountain.

Leave it to former Navy SEALs to decide that the best way to get their lives back on track following a series of health crises is to scale Africa’s highest peak: Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Twenty-six year old Will Cannon, of Houston, Texas, is one such climber. Cannon was a sergeant in the Army serving in Afghanistan when he lost his right leg (and his best friend) in an explosion. Unfortunately, his bad luck didn’t end there. After leaving the Army, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer and underwent radiation.

During the cancer treatments, Cannon’s spirits sank. But now that he’s in remission, he’s hoping to rejuvenate himself and others by joining a team of wounded veterans who plan to scale Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Cannon will be on hand to help two Navy SEALs who lost both of their legs in service — Bo Reichenbach and Dan Cnossen — complete the difficult ascent. (Cnossen, a Topeka, Kansas native, recently competed at the Paralympics in Sochi, Russia in Nordic skiing.)

Cannon told Roberta MacGinnis of the Houston Chronicle that it’s especially difficult for a Navy SEAL to cope with physical disability. “We are, in our minds, 10 feet tall and bullet proof. We are men. So whenever one of us gets hurt — loses his legs for instance — and we come home, you know, and what do we do? What are we supposed to do? At one point I was leading men into battle, and now I can’t even walk.”

The mountain climbing expedition is part of the Phoenix Patriot Foundation’s mission to bring together small groups of veterans to foster the military bond they miss when their service is over. Jared Ogden, a former Navy SEAL, founded the nonprofit and asked Cannon to join the expedition. The foundation has raised over $15,000 toward its goal of $50,000 to fund the expedition.

Reichenbach and Cnossen will use robotic prosthetics during the week-long climb, which is scheduled for this summer. Reichenbach told MacGinnis, “I’m proving to myself that I’m still capable of doing things that most people can’t do, even though I’m missing both legs from above my knees.”

Which just goes to show that even after injury, Navy SEALS are tougher than most of us will ever be.

MORE: These Blind Vets Train to Climb North America’s Highest Mountain

 

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