A local Air Force Reserve airman will take part in a history-making climb of Mt. Everest. It's the final climb of the Seven Summits Challenge, the first team of military service members to reach the highest seven summits on each of the seven continents.
Staff Sgt. Nick Gibson is also a physician assistant student at Emory. He prepared for months to climb Everest, but his focus is not just on the earth's highest mountain.
"I want to get the message across it's not just time for us to bring our troops home but bring our troops back," Gibson said.
The Seven Summits Challenge highlights the obstacles veterans and their families face upon their return home and raises money for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation.
"I want people to be aware of the mountains veterans are climbing," Gibson said.
And so the climb and his preparation are symbolic. To prepare for Everest with its 29,000-foot elevation, Gibson hiked Stone Mountain.
"Stone Mountain gives you a 1,000 feet plus and gives you that randomness of terrain so it at least gives me a feeling for my pack adjusting, my shoes broken in and working with various climates with my clothing," Gibson said.
He participated in Cross Fit several days a week.
As the team's medic, Gibson will attend to all medical needs.
"You have to make sure your knowledge base, especially for me as the team medic, I have to know what the latest and greatest is in terms of research and medications and treatments for the serious life-threatening conditions you can develop on the mountain," Gibson said.
"I want us to all come together as a country, to support each other and veterans to support each other, and to see us veterans in a good light," Gibson said.
The team, made of six airmen climbers, three wounded airmen, and three airmen trekkers, leaves from Colorado later this week.
Once they reach the summit of Everest, they will follow tradition and carry the American and Air Force flag to the top. Then they do push-ups in honor of friends and colleagues who've died in the line of duty since 9/11.
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