Cody Elliott of Pismo Beach climbs for many of the same reasons as his fellow climbers: The natural beauty, the challenge, the physical fitness.
But Elliott — especially this week — has one more reason: Six names tattooed on his right arm beside an image of the World Trade Center. The names belong to fellow soldiers he knew while serving as a Marine in Afghanistan.
They were killed in combat. The 24-year-old never forgets that.
"They gave the ultimate sacrifice," he says, "so the least I could do is live a life they might have lived."
Elliott loves to climb and nothing is stopping him — not even his left leg, amputated above the knee.
Elliott is among 15 disabled veterans climbing in Yosemite Valley this week to commemorate lives lost on 9/11. The climbers on the trip, led by Colorado-based nonprofit Paradox Sports, are working through immense physical and emotional challenges: amputations, spine and traumatic brain injuries and post traumatic stress disorder.
The disabled veteran climbers — and five others with disabilities, along with a group of guides — are splitting up into three groups and climbing El Capitan, Royal Arches and Ranger Rock.
Those on El Capitan started Tuesday and will summit Thursday. Teams going up Royal Arches (what Elliott will ascend) and Ranger Rock will start and finish their climbs Thursday.
Elliott was deployed to Afghanistan twice — in 2009 and 2011. He lost his lower leg in June 2011 while serving as a machine gun squad leader. He stepped on an improvised explosive device while running to help another soldier who had been hit by one.
It was a long road to recovery, but now he can walk — and rock climb — with his prosthetic leg.
"Getting out climbing is my peace of mind these days. ... The only thing you hear is your breath and the people motivating you at the bottom. It's just you and the rock." Read more at fresnobee.com »