You Just Want to Crawl into a Hole

The explosion ripped into his right leg and the concussion severely impacted his brain.

Keith’s deployment to Iraq was over.

He found himself headed home to start the next phase of his life. One very different than he was used to.

For years, Keith struggled through painful rehab to find himself again. By the spring of 2014, he had built up the courage to do something meaningful. What that might be was still a mystery to him.

Then Warriors to Summits popped up on his Facebook feed.

He applied.

“I really struggle with getting out of my comfort zone and trying to interact with people, applying really put me out there,” Keith said.

Keith was accepted and by late spring he had started to prepare for Mission: Mount Whitney.

“I began training and committing myself. We went out for the first time together and I thought, ‘What did I just get myself into,’” he said.

Although full of concerns, Keith felt accepted by the other vets and knew this experience was leading him down the right path.

“I needed a new challenge in life, I needed something to prove to myself that my sense of adventure wasn’t dead,” he said.

A few days into climbing Mt. Whitney, Keith’s foot started giving him problems. It became infected. Walking was near impossible. The night of the summit push, the team left camp at midnight and the pain was excruciating.

“It reminded me that there’s always going to be wrenches thrown into the operation, no matter how much you plan or prepare,” Keith said. “Sometimes you’re just going to run into unexpected problems.”

Sitting on the summit in the early dawn of Sept. 11, the pain had been erased from Keith’s thoughts.

“It was a really special moment,” he said.

Keith hadn’t spent a lot of time in the backcountry before the Whitney expedition.

“It was nerve wracking,” he said. “In the end it was more difficult and more satisfying than I ever could have imagined. I’m a pretty hard-charging guy and it definitely challenged me. That was something I really needed.”

More willing to take chances these days, Keith says he’ll absolutely climb mountains again.

“Before this I had been beaten down a lot; I was not in a good place; I had gotten into that stereotypical spot where you just want to crawl into a hole and you don’t want to get out or take chances. Luckily I took this chance,” Keith said.

Warriors to Summits allowed Keith and his teammates to take an opportunity, to try something completely different and to take a chance when they were at their lowest points.

“The trip really motivated me to get out and push myself that much harder in life,” he said. “It showed me that my life isn’t defined by what happened to me, that I can still achieve greater things.”

Keith is currently looking for his next challenge. He’s running races side-by-side with his twin brother, Ken, another veteran, and just finished his national personal training certificate.

Staying positive and looking toward the bright future is his new target.

“Right now I’m trying to get into personal training. Five to 10 years down the road I hope to be managing my own gym. That’s the ultimate goal for me,” Keith said.

The lifelong connections and understanding that he’s not alone surprised and motivated Keith the most.

“It was refreshing to see some people going through the exact same things I was going through,” he said. “I was able to see that I’m not the only one out there; somebody else has these same problems I have.”