Wells Fargo: Mountain of support helps veterans move beyond their past

By Lisa Westerman

(Photo Credit: Didrik Johnck)

Gannett Peak at 13,804 ft. and Mt. Whitney at 14,505 ft. are both symbols for the challenges life can throw at you. Sponsored by Wells Fargo in 2014 and 2015, Warriors to Summits, a program of No Barriers USA whose mission is to unleash the potential of the human spirit, empowers veterans and transitioning service members with disabilities to overcome barriers and achieve their potential.

Warriors to Summits trains a group of wounded veterans throughout the summer months to summit a major peak, such as Mt. Whitney in 2014 and Gannett Peak in 2015. The team prepares physically and emotionally for the rigorous journey they hope will be the catalyst for change in their civilian lives.

Participants have disabilities ranging from amputations to traumatic brain injury to post-traumatic stress. However, they rely on each other and the principles they learned in the military to acquire the skills they need to navigate mountains.

The program uses mountains as a metaphor to help wounded veterans overcome barriers in their personal lives. The No Barriers philosophy is “What’s Within You is Stronger than What’s in Your Way.”

Through a three phased approach, The Warriors to Summits program is designed to maximize its impact on the participants well beyond the climb. Their experiences prepare them to build teams, innovate through adversity, and step up to lead and serve others. The first phase is the preparation phase, which includes the selection and onboarding of the team members. The second phase is the transformative experience that includes the trainings and the summit attempt. The third is the meaningful reintegration phase when the team reconnects weeks after the summit to discuss their emotional and physical progress, where they have been and where they want to go, and participate as a team in volunteer project. Key to the success of this program is the continued engagement No Barriers maintains with the participants long after their summit experience to ensure they continue to step up and serve others.

Warriors to Summits past participants say Veterans Day now represents new hope of living a life of purpose once again.

“Veterans Day has a different meaning now since participating in the Warriors to Summits program,” said Steve Troop, U.S. Army Veteran, who participated in the Warriors to Summits program in 2014. “I feel like I actually am a veteran who has something to live for, and hope to make some sort of positive difference in the world. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what that may be but I know some day I will.”

“No Barriers changed my view of Veterans Day in a profound way, especially after having time to reflect on both my experiences in Iraq and up in the mountains,” said Keith Knoop, U.S. Army Veteran, who also participated in the Warriors to Summits program in 2014. “It reinforced my belief that all veterans share a special bond; it’s a bond that transcends time and personal beliefs, and it’s something that’s never compromised. So, on Veterans Day, I take extra time to think of the bond I have with other veterans, and appreciate the friendships and brotherhood that we have.”

Learn more about the program and how to apply or nominate someone at WarriorstoSummits.org.

Lisa Westerman is the VP Corporate Communications at Wells Fargo within the Military & Veteran and People with Disabilities segments

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