The Chute Didn’t Open

You’re perched at the door of a perfectly good aircraft, preparing to jump.

Your feet sweat, your heart pumps like a diesel engine, everything slows down. You jump. That feeling of weightlessness creeps up. You can’t help but smile.

You finally understand why others try this. The thought pops into your head, “What is the worst that can happen?” Then it does. Your parachute doesn’t open. You pull your reserve, but it gets tangled in the main chute.

You spiral towards the Earth.

Everything goes black.

A nightmare for most of us. But a reality for Steven Troop.

Steve joined the service to become an elite Airborne Ranger. His parachute malfunctioned shortly into his training. It was a static jump, but after plummeting thousands of feet, he hit the ground at more than 60 miles per hour.

While he lived, Steve was severely injured with multiple herniated vertebrae, a partial spinal injury, a destroyed left knee and right shoulder, severe whiplash and a concussion that after years of therapy and rehab was eventually termed a Traumatic Brain Injury.

Steve has been battling with his recovery for the better part of three decades, trying to move past what happened.

“It affected me in all kinds of different ways over the years psychologically,” he said.

The one constant in Steve’s up and down journey of pain was a never ending stream of prescriptions. He was in a fog. A daze. A walking zombie with a new addiction.

“I had no motivation, I was lethargic, I was depressed from taking all these medications and the chronic pain, I was a mess,” Steve said.

One day, a physical therapist suggested Steve try yoga to help. He thought it was a joke.

“I thought it was a waste of time, but the more I got into it the more I liked it and the more it started to show positive aspects in my life,” he said. “It decreased my chronic pain, but it also started helping me with memory and concentration and improving my whole outlook on life.”

That realization provided a momentum in Steve’s life that he carried through with after stumbling across the Warriors to Summits website. Immediately he was interested. While yoga was helping him heal, he still sought a life direction. Something positive. Something different.

“I figured if I could come together with other vets who have been through traumatic things, and we can all push each other to get through this mission and get to the top of Mount Whitney, that it would do me a world of good psychologically, emotionally and spiritually. It would push me to a higher place, so that’s what drove me to apply.”

From the first day, Steve felt like he was finally in the right place. His life was taking him down the correct path. By the time he had climbed high onto the flanks of Mt. Whitney in early September, the team had gelled into a cohesive unit.

“Starting this program, I didn’t know if I was going to make it to the summit of Whitney. I had no clue, but I figured that if I was with all these other people who were all struggling with whatever issues they had to go through, we could all come together as a team and push each other and make it. And we did,” he said.

Since returning home from the expedition, Steve has realized that he can accomplish more in his life. He had struggled to finish his college degree for more than 20 years. He has had to withdraw from countless classes and failed a few due to his memory and concentration problems.

“After seeing that I could accomplish getting to the top of Mt. Whitney, I was like, ‘You know what, I can accomplish trying to finish my degree.’ So I made the decision to go for it. I’m going to go back to school. I’m going to get my degree. I’m going to move on with my life and things are going to get better for me,” he said. “I’m going to go for a master’s degree in holistic studies. I want to help out other people who are struggling with disabilities in their lives, and I’m going to try to help them move on to a better place.”

In pursuing that holistic studies master’s, Steve hopes to help others struggling with disabilities, assisting them into better places in their lives, just as Warriors to Summits did for him.

“I’m pushing myself now,” he said. “I’m pushing my limits; I’m pushing my body; I’m pushing my barriers.”