Wounded Brooklyn Marine Hopes to Conquer Climb of a Lifetime
Thursday, December 27, 2012
Posted by: Edie Rosenthal
by Kirstan Conly
(New York Times) An elite Marine from Brooklyn who lost his left leg after an IED attack in Iraq hopes to hit a new high — climbing the steepest, most treacherous route on icy Mount Washington in New Hampshire.
Keith Zeier said he’s making the dangerous ascent to honor fellow soldiers who can’t."An IED explosion ended my career in the Marine Corps,” said Zeier, 26.
"[But] it has certainly not stripped me of the determination, perseverance and mental toughness I’ve gained.”
Zeier specifically hopes to raise awareness and funds for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, which gives money to the families of hospitalized soldiers and scholarships to children of those killed in combat.
"It’s a serious climb,” said seven-time Everest climber Andy Politz (pictured with Keith), who organized a 13-member group, Ascents of Honor, to accompany Zeier up Mount Washington’s ice-covered Huntington Ravine.
Zeier had first decided to join the Marines after the 9/11 attacks killed his best friend’s father, FDNY Lt. John Crisci. In 2004, at age 17, Zeier enlisted and joined the elite 2nd Marine Special Operations Battalion.
Two years later, in Fallujah, he was blasted out of a Humvee and into unconsciousness. Shrapnel ripped through the muscle, nerve and bone of his left leg, and he suffered a traumatic brain injury and needed six surgeries to be stabilized.
Zeier was hospitalized for several more months at the US Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Md., and was told he wouldn’t walk without a cane. Soon, he ran a 100-mile race. The wounded warrior vomited during the first 75 miles, then collapsed on pavement. He got up, refused to be hospitalized, received an IV and ran another 25 miles to cross the finish line, holding a Marine Corps flag.
He raised more than $100,000 for his brethren.
"He’s strong, and he’s got all the heart you’d ever need,” said Politz, 53.
In 2010, Zeier’s leg had to be amputated because circulation in its nerves had died. He moves a little slower, but he refuses to sit still.
In August, Zeier found a passion for mountaineering, when he and Politz trudged up Mount Rainier in Washington state.
"We took 20 hours,” Politz said. "Keith is a really tough guy, but his prosthetic leg would punch through the snow, and we’d have to dig it out with a shovel. He can’t step through. He can only match the prosthetic leg to where the good leg went.
For every step we took, he took two.
”Zeier will have a new custom-made prosthesis for his January trek, which includes 700 feet of vertical ice climbing with axes. His team plans a rare sleepover in the weather observatory atop the Northeast’s most prominent mountain in some of the world’s worst weather.
Make a donation in support of Ascents of Honor