A climb for life
Raytheon, No Barriers expedition helps wounded veterans
In the still of the night, a team of disabled veterans set forth on a life-changing journey. They left the safety of their base camp, crossing ripping mountain creeks, picking their way through sporty boulder fields and traversing a steep, snow-covered glacier — all in an effort to summit Wyoming’s tallest mountain and more importantly, rebuild themselves.
While crossing the trail’s rough icy terrain, “my foot was slipping,” said U.S. Navy veteran Eddie Robles. “The rock was slippery; it was like black ice. I couldn’t get a good grip.”
In a moment of fear and panic, self-doubt took over. Robles was afraid he was going to fall.
Katelyn Sheehan, an expedition leader for No Barriers, a U.S. Air Force veteran and experienced mountain climber, sprang into action. She began shouting, “Come on, Eddie! Get aggressive! Eddie, you got this!”
“It lit a fire in me,” Robles said. “I started reaching, I started climbing, and I made it up.”
Robles was among 12 disabled veterans on the 2017 Raytheon-No Barriers Veteran Wilderness Expedition at the Wind River Range in Wyoming.
Physically challenging activities like hiking and mountain climbing are aimed at helping the veterans face fears and bond with fellow warriors.
"These men and women have sacrificed so much for our nation in the name of freedom," said Raytheon Missile Systems President Dr. Taylor W. Lawrence. "By teaming with No Barriers Warriors, we are giving back to wounded veterans by providing them a life-changing experience."
This year's team hailed from Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and southern California, and from all branches of the armed forces. Click on the profiles below to learn more about each participant.
This is the fourth year that Raytheon and the nonprofit organization No Barriers Warriors have teamed for a Veteran Wilderness Expedition.
By day, the team trekked through the backcountry of the Shoshone National Forest. And by night, they spent quality time together at camp, where they were able to connect and share common bonds.
Robles works as a peer support specialist for the Department of Veterans Affairs, helping veterans who are dealing with mental health-related challenges. In this capacity, he gives a lot, and he’s grateful to the veterans he works with, but it also takes an emotional toll.
“I take on a lot of trauma,” he said. “I needed to get out, clear my head and just be a veteran, and depend on people instead of having people depend on me.”
The team’s first day included hiking six miles over an 8,000 ft. increase in elevation, while carrying 50-pound packs. On the second day, the team covered 12 miles.
“It’s not something any of us could have done by ourselves,” Robles said. “It reinforced teamwork. It reinforced trust.”
For this team of novice mountaineers, reaching the top felt like they were breaking down barriers that had prevented them from moving forward in life.
And when they summited Gannett Peak, which stands tall at 13,800 ft. elevation, the veterans shared a surreal moment. They celebrated their accomplishment, dancing and crying with the Grand Tetons visible in the distance against a mid-day sunset caused by the solar eclipse.
“The issues that I face or the fears that I have at home didn’t come close to what I was feeling on that mountain,” Robles said. “To let go of that fear, start climbing and make it — it’s easily been one of the most incredible feelings of my life.”
Meet the 2017 Veteran Wilderness Expedition team:
Last Updated: 09/22/2017