To reach the heights
Raytheon, No Barriers help 12 disabled veterans embrace the future
Orlando Tellez is a 20-year U.S. Marine Corps veteran, and no stranger to long treks. He's carried 75-pound packs, slogging over 25 miles in a day. A football player in high school, he enlisted in the Marines in 1994.
“I joined because it was the toughest service,” he said.
Tellez served in Iraq, Kuwait and Bahrain, rising to the rank of gunnery sergeant, but his military career was cut short when a live grenade took a bad bounce off of a nearby wall during a training exercise. The explosion resulted in a brain injury that gave him post-traumatic Meniere’s disease, which affects the ear and causes dizziness, as well as severe back pain.
In the hopes of recovering his strong-willed mindset once again, Tellez went on the transformational trip of a lifetime. He was one of 12 injured combat veterans on the 2017 Raytheon-No Barriers Veteran Wilderness Expedition at the Wind River Range in Wyoming.
This year's expedition will trek the Grand Canyon in Arizona on Oct. 19-27. This is the fifth year that Raytheon and No Barriers Warriors have teamed for a Veteran Wilderness Expedition.
Through physically challenging activities such as long-distance hiking and rafting, disabled veterans learn how to face their fears and overcome obstacles while bonding with fellow warriors.
A NEW CHALLENGE
The Marines medically retired Tellez in 2014. Suffering severe physical challenges, his confidence and motivation plummeted.
“I was in a pretty bad place,” he said. “I felt like I couldn’t do anything. I needed some motivation and some confidence.”
The No Barriers trip offered the right challenge, as well as the chance to find support from other veterans facing their own difficulties. During the expedition, participants had regular group discussions to process the mental and physical obstacles they faced.
“There were times during the expedition when I didn’t think I could keep going,” he said. “Everybody was motivating each other and there was great teamwork. It was the only way I made it.”
This year’s Grand Canyon expedition will push the physical limits of a new team, beginning with a seven-day whitewater river adventure and ending with a nine-mile hike out of the Canyon on the Bright Angel Trail, which gains almost a mile in elevation.
TAKING THE JOURNEY
Friends, family and colleagues can nominate wounded veterans for the 2018 Grand Canyon Expedition by visiting the Raytheon-No Barriers Warriors website.
Veterans can also nominate themselves using the online application. The deadline for applications and nominations is July 15. Candidates must reside in Alabama, Arizona, New Mexico or Texas to take part in the nine-day trek.
“The Grand Canyon is the perfect setting to build lifelong bonds with teammates as they face the challenges of the Colorado River's white water rapids together,” said John Toth, No Barriers Warriors director. “At the same time, the solitude of the canyon gives participants the opportunity to reflect on their past, recognize their strengths and develop a vision for a purposeful and positive future.”
For veterans interested in applying, Tellez offers some sound advice.
“The expedition can build you up and motivate you to keep pushing and not give up,” he said. “You’ll get your confidence back. It will change you. It brought me back.”