To leave no one behind
Expedition alum returns to coach 2019 team of veterans
When Jeremy Spruce joined the U.S. Army, he took an oath never to leave a fallen comrade behind.
For him, it wasn't just an Army thing. It was a lifetime vow. And he demonstrated it years later, on the last leg of the 2018 Grand Canyon Veteran Wilderness Expedition. On his way up the arduous, nine-mile Bright Angel Trail, Spruce fell back: a teammate was struggling to get up the hill. He stayed behind and they finished the journey together.
“Earlier in the trip, somebody helped me up, and now I was helping somebody else up,” said Spruce, who served 10 years in the Army, including a 15-month deployment to Iraq and a year in Afghanistan.
Spruce has joined the No Barriers team again, returning to serve as the alumnus coach for the 2019 Big Bend Veteran Wilderness Expedition on Oct. 5-13. He's offering encouragement and support to nine other disabled veterans from Alabama, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. Raytheon is the expedition's sponsor.
"For the returning men and women of our armed forces who face physical, mental or emotional injuries, the transition back to civilian life frequently presents unique and significant challenges," said Jon Kasle, vice president of Communications for Raytheon Missile Systems.
This is the sixth year Raytheon and No Barriers Warriors have partnered for a Veteran Wilderness Expedition.
With physically challenging activities like summiting Emory Peak in Big Bend National Park and rafting the Rio Grande River, the expedition gives veterans a chance to face fears, bond with fellow warriors, overcome adversity, achieve goals and write pledges for the future.
“I want to support people who are in the same situation I was, where they’re not comfortable talking about something or they’re laying back and not really opening up,” Spruce said.
Spruce, who is also a production manager at Raytheon, will serve in the position for a year. In the weeks leading up to the expedition, he helped prepare the 2019 team through No Barriers' online curriculum. After the expedition, Spruce will check in with participants as they work on their pledges.
“The No Barriers life is recognizing that there’s nothing that you can’t do, or get through, or overcome,” he said. “I know that this is a program that works. The worst is behind me."
Spruce now aspires to help other veterans approach problems in new ways and realize they can improve their lives.
"The experience helped me understand that I don't have to fight things by myself," he said. "I have the ability, friends and a support network."
Meet the 2019 Veteran Wilderness Expedition team: