What started as an offshoot of the successful partnership between the Wounded Warriors program and Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra, has grown in a new effort by Craig Knoche and other local volunteers who are working to help rehabilitate injured veterans of the Iraqi and Afghan wars by climbing all the 14,000 foot peaks in California.
Last summer, physically and mentally injured veterans set out to climb Mt. Whitney and White Mountain Peak. This weekend, the volunteers plan to help seven vets reach the summit of Mt. Langley out of Lone Pine. This 14’er project is put on almost entirely by locals.
Craig Knoche says that all of the volunteers who lead the climbs are local residents. A list of sponsors shows the same thing. One sponsor is a group called Paradox Sports, but Ski Area founder Dave McCoy has provided money for the effort as well. Mammoth Mountaineering Supply has provided the sleeping bags, tents and other gear for the climbs, and Vons has chipped in for food. Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra provides the insurance for the groups activities.
Wider funding has been tough to come by because this group tries to help veterans with post traumatic stress syndrome along with veterans with physical injuries. Knoche says, There is a lot of money out there for amputees and people with physical injuries, but there is a paucity of programs for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. On past trips to the mountains, Knoche says that participants with PTSD seemed to benefit the most.
To date, people with PTSD are falling through the cracks of the Military health care system, he says, adding that the goal of the 14’er project is to focus on the underserved.
This weekend volunteers and vets are slated to climb the 14,026 foot Mt. Langley.