Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group

Fort Carson Mountaineer

Wounded warriors climb to new heights

Soldiers from the Warrior Transition Unit climb up on the rock wall as others await their turn.

Soldiers from the Warrior Transition Unit climb up on the rock wall as others await their turn.

Story and photos by Geoffrey Roper

Mountaineer staff

Soldiers from the Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Carson enjoyed indoor rock climbing, kettlebell training and much more Feb. 19 when nonprofit group LifeQuest Transitions hosted an adventure day at its downtown Colorado Springs facility at CityRock climbing gym on north Nevada Avenue.

More than 100 Soldiers attended the daylong event, which also included spatial training with tennis balls, medicine ball workouts and other exercises meant to help with the physical side of rehabilitation. Scott Hunziker, a volunteer with LifeQuest, says the goal is also to help with the mental side of healing.

“These guys are broken; they’re wounded. That not only affects their mental, their physical, their emotional (state), it affects their Family, everything,” he said. “So what we’re trying to do is to reignite that fire inside of them; the very fire … that motivated them to sign up for the military in the first place.”

LifeQuest thinks the problems facing wounded Soldiers can be overwhelming, and that they are working as an advocate with the military to provide a solution. EagleQuest, a program specifically designed by the group for wounded warriors, uses a combination of traditional medicine, sports science, physical therapy, neuropsychology, coaching and practical experience. This particular event gave the wounded Soldiers a one-day look into the program, which actually lasts from 90-120 days. For some, it was a chance to see where they stood physically and mentally for the first time since being wounded.

Seven months ago, Sgt. Brandon Daggs was in Bagdad, when he noticed his voice starting to change and he was losing weight rapidly. Doctors found a rare tumor in his throat and he underwent chemotherapy and surgery almost immediately. With an obvious change to his voice since undergoing the procedures, which took out much of his voice box in the process, he said this event was a great way to gauge his recovery.

“I’m highly impressed. I’ve never been challenged, motivated or inspired in so many ways by such a wonderful organization,” he said. “You get challenged in new ways in a nonstressful environment. You get to motivate yourself, motivate your peers, to strive for (something) better, and ultimately break out of (your) shell.”

For Sgt. Shawn Espinoza, it was a somewhat ironic twist of fate that brought him into the WTU and this event. While stationed in Iraq, he was in a convoy when his group was attacked by what he said were RKG-3s, Russian-made anti-tank grenades. He said the vehicle in front of his suffered one hit, and the one behind him was hit twice, yet amazingly, no one was injured. He said they got back to base and decided to celebrate by playing a pick-up game of basketball. While playing, he ended up tearing his anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL.

“I climbed the rock wall; that was pretty cool,” said Espinoza. “The benefit for me is I gained a lot of weight since my surgery, so I want to get back in shape because I’m return-to-duty.” His unit will be leaving for Afghanistan later this year.

Espinoza also said the day offered him a chance to be physical again, something he enjoyed in the past.

“This gives you a chance to do something that pushes the envelope a little bit physically,” he said. “This is something that is out of the ordinary for us, so it’s good to come here and get a new challenge and feel better about where you are in your healing process … you have a sense of accomplishment when you climb on top of that wall.”

Soldiers who decide to sign up for the 90-120 day programs will have the chance to do such activities as orienteering, trekking, mountain biking, paddling, climbing and related rope instruction.

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