Stuart’s Next Summit: Being Present for Others

At the time, it appeared to be the most devastating instance in his life.

But now Stuart considers it to be the best thing that could have ever happened.

The 16-year Navy veteran was injured during combat training and when the uniform finally came off, he sunk into a crisis. That wardrobe represented more than the sum of its stitches — it was his identity, his career, his sense of patriotism, and his way of life.

But his post-injury journey allowed him to have a perspective outside of himself.

“Self-centered and selfish, that’s kind of what I was,” he said. “I had a great career, I led a lot of men and women and I tried to do my best, but being injured was the first step in really humbling me to start growing beyond myself. The Mount Whitney trip allowed me to do it without a uniform on.”

Last year, Stuart climbed Mount Whitney with a team of other veterans. Although he’s not one to usually climb mountains, he was called to apply because he thought it might help him rediscover a bit of his identity. He saw it as a good transition into civilian life — “to remind me of going forward, taking things I’d learned in the military, putting them in my life.

The biggest thing Stuart learned? That although he doesn’t wear the uniform and doesn’t serve the country in that way anymore, he can still serve his fellow man.

“When I took the uniform off for the last time I had to remind myself – and I think that’s what Mission Mount Whitney reminded of – that just because I took off the uniform, it doesn’t change who I am,” he said. “That’s a big step for me and a big step for a lot of people I walked on this journey with.”

Since returning, Stuart has been active giving back, particularly with supporting military families. That desire stems from when he was recalled.

“I didn’t get recalled with a unit. I didn’t have a buddy. I was the only officer out of my unit that was recalled to go support a unit I had never worked with before,” he said. “So I saw that family piece more than most. … When you’re a sole person and you get recalled, there’s not a big support there for your family to help them through this. They’re really on their own and that happens more than we’d like in the military.”

He and his wife now help other military couples, offering informal marriage mentoring. They also assist other causes, such as being marshals for a 150-mile bicycle ride benefiting multiple sclerosis.

“Being present for other people, that’s what I’m called to do now,” he said. “With this trip I didn’t know the technical piece but I do know the feelings and the experiences and hurt and the trials that go along with getting out or being injured, and that’s where I can help other people.

“The highest summit I could achieve now is to be a good husband and a good father. That’s a continual one for me and where my life is moving.”