One Leg One Mountain - Everest

Tom Whittaker
US Armed Forces Bases Europe -  For most the thought of climbing the world’s tallest mountain is enough to give pause.  Not only is the task a super human endurance feat, but life threatening from the moment one arrives at base camp as was evident last year when nearly two dozen climbers died as an earthquake struck Nepal and ensuing avalanche slammed into the staging area.  

Over the next several weeks a group of renowned climbers will be traveling throughout: England, Kosovo and Germany sharing personal stories with US and Coalition Troops. The mission: showcase the possible in life - if we just don’t quit. 

Impossible was the term used to describe Tom Whittaker’s desire to climb Everest back in the 90’s, not because the mountain hadn’t been climbed or that he had chosen a unproven route, but because he was a one legged amputee. Up until his arrival at the summit of the world’s tallest peak, amputee’s and others with disabilities had been shunned from Everest and high altitude climbing altogether.  

Vasu Sojitra 
Today, Vasu Sojitra, plants both of his arm crutches outfitted with special crampons into the steep slope above him.  He lifts and hops upwards with his one leg to gain another 8-10 inches of elevation.  Half a day later, he stands on the summit of a rugged snow covered peak high in the Madison Range of Bozeman, Montana.  With a quick conversion he’s able to turn his outrigger crampon crutches into outrigger skis and together the two mini 'arm skis' combined with  one legged ski descend the 45 degree out of bounds mountain. Vasu, lost his right leg below the hip at age 9 the result of a rare disease. 

For US Army Staff Sergeant Benjamin Breckheimer, awakening from surgery to see that his right leg had been reattached was a bit of a shock.  Having spent the better part of his Army days in the medical community as a surgical assistant in Baghdad and beyond, he knew exactly how severely wounded he was after having switched military careers to Calvary Scout duties, the day that an IED exploded underneath him in Afghanistan,  

Staff Sergeant Benjiman Breckheimer - USA ret. 
Thanks to individuals like Tom and Vasu, Staff Sergeant Breckheimer, retired, is focused on climbing the world’s tallest mountains, fused right leg and all. “I went through some really really dark periods where I didn’t think I’d come out the other side,” says Breckheimer, who during his countless surgeries to repair his legs and other internals became deeply depressed and suicidal, he adds,“Then I see these guys doing all this amazing stuff with one leg and I look down to see both of mine still attached and working for the most part… there was no excuse, I just started dreaming about joining them in the mountains… it’s saved my life.” 

Delivering resilient messaging through unique mentors is the mission of all volunteer nonprofit American300 and they visit bases on a monthly basis all over the world.   Joining the three on this ‘Never Quit Series’ tour will be Everest expedition leader Chris Klinke and Everest expedition Physician Eric Meyer M.D. along with Gretchen Powers and her dad Robi Powers who founded the nonprofit effort back in 2006. 

“I’ve been to bases in Japan, Afghanistan, the Middle East, Africa and all over America and everywhere we go with Armed Forces Entertainment and American300 the Troops are so stoked to talk about what it’s like to be on top of the world,” says Doctor Meyer, adding, “The irony is that I've stood on top of the world twice, and feel like I’m on top of the world every time I get to be around our Troops.” 

About American300 - visit   

About Armed Forces Entertainment
Armed Forces Entertainment is the official Department of Defense agency for providing entertainment to U.S. military personnel serving overseas, with priority given to those in contingency operations and at remote and isolated locations. The Department of the Air Force is the executive agent of Armed Forces Entertainment. Founded in 1951, Armed Forces Entertainment brings a touch of home to more than 500,000 troops annually, embracing the best of Americana that stretches across all genres of entertainment. For more information visit ,  Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.

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