When 24-year-old Cody Elliott was a teenager in Pismo Beach, Calif., he worked at a surf shop where he helped disabled people learn how to ride the waves. “Seeing them smile on the waves while they were surfing — that showed me that no matter what, life continues on afterwards,” Elliott tells Carmen George of the Fresno Bee.
Inspired by his best friend’s loss of a family member in the 9/11 attacks, Elliott enlisted in the Marines. The lesson of life continuing on became crucial for Elliott when he lost his left leg above the knee while serving in Afghanistan in 2011.
Despite the injury, Elliott is thankful for what he still has. He climbs mountains with the names of six of his comrades who died in Afghanistan tattooed on his right arm next to a picture of the World Trade Center. And last week, Elliott joined a group of injured veterans scaling three peaks — El Capitan, Royal Arches and Ranger Rock — in Yosemite National Park to commemorate September 11th.
“Getting out climbing is my peace of mind these days,” Elliott tells George. “The only thing you hear is your breath and the people motivating you at the bottom. It’s just you and the rock.”
Elliott enjoys climbing so much, he hopes to make a career in the climbing industry. “My whole thing is to motivate people through life,” he says. “That no matter what, you can get up and be physically active.”
The climbing expedition was arranged by Army veteran D.J. Skelton, who started Paradox Sports — a Boulder, Colorado-based nonprofit that organizes adaptive sports expeditions for disabled people after he was injured in Iraq. “I lost my left eye, my upper jaw and palate, a lot extensive facial damage,” he tells Sara Sandrik of KFSN. “So we decided to have this on September 11th as celebration, a celebration of the life that we have, the life, the limbs, the things that we have sacrificed that have brought us together as a community,” says Skelton.