The Heroes Project: 7 Wounded Warriors Climb 7 Killer Summits

Tim Medvetz talks about taking injured U.S. veterans beyond the limit.

U.S. veterans mountain climbing heroes project

On top of the world. All it takes is a little love, belief, fortitude beyond belief, and help from a friend. (Photo: Courtesy Heroes Project)

Allan MacDonell is TakePart’s News + Opinion editor, with a focus on social justice.

If you call your organization the Heroes Project, you’d better aim high on your mission statement.

In his “7 Summits, 7 Warriors” video clip, Tim Medvetz shoots for the top of the world. His gravelly voice rasps out a challenge, as much to himself as to the rest of the world: “I’m going to take seven disabled warriors to climb the world’s seven highest peaks on seven different continents.”

The first clip of “7 Summits, 7 Warriors” shows a man in cargo shorts, wielding a pair of hiking poles, ambling up a mountain trail. Up to the knee, and beyond, the hiker’s legs are metallic prosthetics. The trail is ascending Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro.

As the video plays out, sergeants Keith Deutsch and Neil Duncan ascend, respectively, Europe’s Mount Elbrus and Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro with Tim Medvetz as expedition leader. Both Deutsch and Duncan climb on artificial legs.

Prepare for treacherous icy expanses, slashing winds, the human will driving the human body beyond physical exhaustion, graphic views of the bloody toll taken by the wounded climbers’ stumps, and breathtaking mountaintop views of surging emotional catharsis.

Medvetz, founder of the the Heroes Project, has a profound personal relationship with so-called disability. Doctors pieced the avid motorcyclist together with metal rods and pins after a September 2001 motorcycle accident.

“My road to recovery was climbing mountains,” says Medvetz, who has summited Mount Everest, as documented on the 2006 and 2007 seasons of the Discovery Channel adventure series Everest Beyond the Limit. “I want to show these guys they can get their life back.”

Tim Medvetz took time out before a June 2012 ascent of Kilimanjaro with Staff Sergeant Mark Zambon to talk with TakePart about his mountainous motives and methods.

TakePart: Not being a veteran yourself, what inspired you to climb mountains with wounded veterans?

Tim Medvetz: Conquering these mountains has made a profound change in my life.  I want to share the experience. I’m just one proud American trying to do my part for this country by helping one of these guys out. I wish every American would just help out one guy who has done so much for this country. Just do one thing for one vet to show how much you care.

TakePart: What’s one common obstacle wounded veterans need to overcome before they can commit to making a climb?

Tim Medvetz: To believe that it’s not just about their recovery.  It’s about affecting other wounded vets as well by what they’re doing.

TakePart: How do you decide who will be climbing with you?

Tim Medvetz: That’s always a tough choice, especially since there are over 40,000 wounded vets since we invaded Iraq. My decision is definitely made easier by the guys who call me right away and won’t leave me alone. That says a lot, since climbing big mountains always at some point during the climb becomes more mental than their physical disabilities. Piss, vinegar and all heart: That’s how I decide.

TakePart: What are some of the essential needs of military families, and how is the Heroes Project helping to provide them?

Tim Medvetz: To be honest, the Heroes Project right now is only focused on our wounded guys, mainly because of the small amount of funding we have. We are just barely pulling these climbs off on a beer budget. Hopefully that will change soon with our main goals of THP.  I do feel, though, once they’ve conquered their own mountains after their injuries, that their family life becomes much more positive.

TakePart: What are some of the best community service programs working with veterans and their families today?

Tim Medvetz: Honestly there aren’t enough.  I wish more Americans got involved in helping their neighbors, “neighbors” meaning America. However, I will tell you of one great foundation’s community efforts. It’s called Operation Never Forgotten. A woman named Linda Kelly pulls together the whole town of Bozeman, Montana, and holds an annual event for wounded vets.

I had the opportunity to take part in this event. Every local business in Bozeman offers their services to our veterans for one week of fly fishing, adaptive skiing, hunting, ice climbing, dog sledding, learning to skin animals, etc.

That is what you call patriotism. Bozeman, Montana, and Linda Kelly’s program, well that’s the America I want to believe in.

What is one thing you have done for a U.S. vet to show you care? Leave that thing in COMMENTS.

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