US soldiers scale Mount Everest in name of veteran well-being

A team backed by US Expeditions and Explorations scaled the world's tallest mountain to raise awareness and funding for veterans' services after returning from active duty.

Phurba Tenjing Sherpa/Handout/Reuters
A porter carries goods at camp four at Everest on Friday.

While domestic services for returning veterans are facing struggles, former and active Army personnel were on top of the world this week to support veterans' mental health.

US Expeditions and Explorations (USX) is a nonprofit empowering active duty service members and veterans to further research and exploration. USX’s latest initiative sent current and former soldiers on one of the world’s most treacherous expeditions to raise awareness for mental health issues in the military.

Active Second Lt. Harold Earls and Capt. Elyse Ping Medvigy, along with wounded veteran Staff Sgt. Chad Jukes, reached the 29,029 foot summit of Mount Everest on Tuesday.

After raising more than $100,000 in addition to covering the costs of the trip, the team made contributions to the veteran mental health groups Give an Hour and Stop Soldier Suicide, reported Army Times.

Captain Medvigy is believed to be the first active duty female service member to reach the world’s tallest summit, while Sergeant Jukes scaled the Mahalangur mountain missing part of his right leg, lost in Iraq in 2006. Jukes previously summited the 20,100-foot Lobuche in 2010 alongside other Middle East arena veterans.

“Over the past several weeks, our team has been presented with many unique challenges,” Jukes told CNN. “Through teamwork and tenacity, we have been able to address and overcome every challenge we've faced.”

Last week, Marine Staff Sgt. Charlie Linville, also a partial amputee after surviving an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan, became the first veteran wounded in combat to climb to Everest’s peak, according to CNN. Staff Sgt. Linville completed his journey for The Heroes Project veteran support group.

“It’s great that many of our military and retired military personnel are raising awareness of the many issues that our veterans confront every day,” said former Master Sgt. Karim Mella, who in 2011 scaled Everest for first responder awareness and the Special Operations Warrior Foundation.

Awareness of the need for veteran mental health support continues to grow. Troubles with the US Department of Veterans Affairs persist, even after a high-profile 2014 scandal, but USX members and other veterans are keeping issues like veteran post-traumatic stress disorder in the public eye.

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