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7 Apr – Wounded Angels

It’s time to introduce a few more members of our team, some of whom you’ve already heard from or heard about in the past couple days. We’re proud to have three “Wounded Angels” joining us for the trek to base camp. All three are proud members of the USAF Rescue Community, who have undertaken the trek as a means of demonstrating the power of vigorous outdoor adventure to build resiliency and help wounded warriors recover from their injuries.

Senior Master Sgt. Robert Disney, who wrote yesterday’s blog post, is a Pararescueman who survived a gunshot wound to the head on April 18, 2003, when enemy forces ambushed his special operations team as they inserted to a remote location in Central Aisa. A shining example of resilience and the warrior spirit, Disney has also endured a helicopter crash (Aug ‘02), witnessed the death of six close friends in another helicopter crash (Mar ‘03), and suffered a traumatic brain injury from a 15-foot fall onto his back during helicopter operations. Currently assigned to Air Combat Command Headquarters at Langley AFB, VA, “Diz” is an outspoken advocate for Wounded Warrior issues. Diz is earning his keep on this trek as the travelling entertainment, carrying his guitar to base camp!

Capt “Gus” Viani was one of the first Combat Rescue Officers (CROs) to train when officers first entered the career field. An Air Force brat and 2007 USAFA grad, he is an alumni of the USAFE Mountaineering Club like several of the team’s climbers. In Jan 2009, he sustained a fall during helicopter rope ladder training, resulting in a concussion and fractured spine. He was surgically repaired with a titanium spinal fusion, and was waivered to resume training 6 months later. After 2 OEF deployments during which he flew 250 missions, Gus was in a canopy entanglement with another teammate during parachuting training in August 2011. The crash-landing resulted in a concussion, multiple pelvic fractures, rib fractures and torn knee ligament. He was immediately repaired with titanium hardware, followed by knee surgery 5 months later, which left him wheelchair-bound for 3 months. Gus is being cheered on during this trek by his wife Emily, and by his twin brother, a USAF C-17 and RPA pilot.

Our third Wounded Angel, “MSgt Gino”, aka “K-Bar”, is a shadowy figure who is the keeper of Charlie the PJ, a rescue career field mascot with almost 50 years of history. (You can read about Charlie at http://www.pararescue.com/history.aspx?id=451, and you’ve already seen a few pictures of him in previous posts.) As for Gino, he was hit by a frag grenade in Afghanistan almost exactly two years ago, but jumped at the chance to join the trek when another member had to drop out.

All three of these guys embody the essence of resiliency; coming back strong after major setbacks. The USAF 7 Summits Challenge began in 2005 with two guys setting off to climb a mountain together to help clear their heads after a loss in their squadron. That founding idea, of companionship and the healing power of the mountains, is still strong as this group of Airmen heads up the Khumbu Valley to Base Camp.