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Warrior Climbers

Nick and Nate

Gold Star Climbers Mark and Barbara Roland

Gold Star Climber

Maggie Duskin

Gold Star Climber

Ken Stephens

The Duskin and Stephens Foundation and Tusker Trail join efforts for Kilimanjaro Climb for Valor, August 20 – 30, 2017

 

For the third consecutive year, The Duskin and Stephens Foundation, in conjunction with Tusker Trail, will join efforts for the Kilimanjaro Climb for Valor, a healing climb that sends wounded Special Operations Combat Veterans, family members of Fallen Special Operations Soldiers, and civilians up the 19,341-foot peak.  This year’s climb includes two Combat-wounded Veterans, the brother of a Fallen Special Operations Soldier, the widow of a fallen Green Beret, and the parents of a fallen U.S. Airforce Combat Controller.  Up to eight civilian spots remain available for purchase.

 

The wounded Special Operations Combat Veterans, the team’s Warrior Climbers, are chosen from the Special Operations community for the perseverance and determination shown as they battle through extensive surgeries and rehabilitation programs resulting from combat injuries.  Each of these men has made a profound sacrifice in continued service to their country.

 

Civilian climbers can sign up through Tusker Trail's website.     and click on the link, “Learn More.”

 

For any questions contact: ryan@duskinandstephens.org

 

 

 

 

MEET THE CLIMBERS:

 

 

 

Testimonials

 

“I was humbled to be included in the Climb for Valor.

 

After being injured I had a long road back to recovery both mentally and physically. The Climb for Valor gave me a goal and helped motivate me.

 

It was great to be part of a team of like-minded people for the climb.  I enjoyed getting to know the other climbers and hear their stories; it really helped me to gain perspective with respect to my situation and gave me a fresh outlook.

 

The whole experience has given me a great sense of achievement. I would highly recommend this to anyone…”

 

      -Dave (Wounded Special Operator)

 

In 2013 Dave was deployed to Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom when the helicopter that he was traveling in crashed. Sustaining head trauma and serious bilateral injuries, including breaking both legs, Dave was revived and treated by the members of his team before being CASEVAC'd. Dave spent the next four months in a wheelchair where he started the long, slow road to rehabilitation.

 

It was an honor for the Duskin and Stephens Foundation to assist in his recovery!

 

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  • Ayron (civilian climber)

    “You’re thinking of climbing Kilimanjaro, eh? From first-hand experience I can tell you that the team at Tusker provides superior customer care and I would not have made it up the hill without Simon and “Pole, Pole.”

     

    Kilimanjaro was never on my radar. I mean that in the most honest and literal form; it was never in my thoughts, never crossed my mind, never a goal, never a glimmer of possibility.  To further drive this point home, I was 2 months from my 40th birthday, at least 40 pounds overweight due to too many hours in an office for most of my 30’s and a long-term relationship with recreational activities such as reading and cooking. I’m a civilian.

     

    I was meeting with Ryan of the Duskin and Stephens Foundation when he mentioned the Climb for Valor and that no one had signed up yet. It was August of 2015 and the Climb was scheduled for the end of April and into early May.  For some reason the words, “I’ll do it” escaped from some long-dormant section of my brain. Being the gentleman that he is, Ryan didn’t even blink or let the incredulity he was surely experiencing cross his face. For that reason, I’ll never play poker with Ryan.

     

    Knowing that athletes can sometimes get attention regular civilians cannot, and with Ryan still in the room, I called Mike Commodore who had recently retired from the NHL. Mike was the one person I knew immediately would consider the request, for while most people know of his colorful personality, I knew he had a heart of gold and would embrace the idea of the Climb for Valor. Mike answered my call, and took all of ten seconds to think about it before he said, “Sure, why not?” So the 2016 Climb team began to take shape.

     

    We would eventually end up with just Mike and I as the civilians and 3 participants from the DSF Family. I will let you learn about them on your own.

     

    If you’re considering this trip, and Maggie, Ryan or Chad have shared this story with you, it’s probably because you’re closer to being me than being Ryan or Chad with their athletic ability and 2% body fat.

     

    So what was the climb like? How did I prepare? What was the camping like? How was the food? Was it scary?

     

    All of these are questions I was asked upon my return, and I’m going to be brutally honest – I did not prepare as well as I should have. Remember me saying Kili wasn’t on my radar? That means that I had no clue about the height of the mountain, the terrain or anything else. Yes, I knew it was 19,400 some-odd feet. I didn’t KNOW how high that was. Maybe I was naive, but I was never afraid of the hike and never really comprehended what other people seemed to consider a daunting idea.

     

    I didn’t really get off my ass and go to the gym until February-March. I liked being comfortable and being overweight is comfortable. I’d spend anywhere from an hour to two on cardio and I’d meet with a trainer to learn strength exercises once a week.  Looking back, this was nearly worthless. The best way to train for Kili is to go Ruck. Get your boots, some weight in your pack and go walk. Walk everywhere. Uphill, downhill, to the mall, to the market. Walk, walk, walk. We walked 44 miles in 8 days and gained 14,000 feet in elevation. We climbed up 3,000 feet and down 6,000 feet on our summit day. Ruck. Ruck your ass off to prepare.

     

    The food was amazing, there are videos on the Tusker site that go into detail about that. The camping is camping; Mike had never camped in his life and I hadn’t since college. If you’re a female and you want to discuss how much fun menstruation is on a hike like this, ask Ryan for my email, we’ll chat about anemia and sanitary supplies.

     

    Was it scary? No, honestly never once was I concerned about my safety. The hotel in Moshi is gated so the aggressive street vendors cannot enter the courtyard and they do med checks twice a day. So physical safety and medical safety was never a concern.

     

    The other thing that everyone seems to ask is, what was the climb like? Calling it a climb is a misnomer. We never did a technical climb, never needed ropes or ice picks. It was a very long, very wet hike with challenging terrain that varied from rainforest and jungle on days 1 & 2 to loose scree on summit day. We had days where we needed our hands to free climb low rock formations, and we had days that were relatively flat long treks in which your hiking poles are your best friend.

     

    We hiked in the wet season; of 8 days on the mountain, it rained 6 of them. Only summit day and descent day were without rainfall. One day, the rains were so bad we hiked upstream, because the trail became a small stream. Your rain gear, if you choose to climb during the wet, is essential. Having waterproof hiking boots, and a secondary pair of shoes for camp that could double as hikers if your shoes get flooded, is an excellent idea. My boots were soaked through after stream day and holding them over a lantern hoping they would dry, was not the best use of time and energy.

     

    You’re probably still wondering, “What was it like?” By this point, I have to assume you’re referring to the mental and emotional aspects of the hike. It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, and it was with people who were strangers when we met and when we left, I knew I would value and cherish them forever. On summit day, my asthma was so bad I was hitting my inhaler every 30 minutes for the first three hours. This was also while crying and occasionally vomiting from exertion. Damn that ice cream. At one point, I believe I said, “The mountain wins. Go on without me.” It was at that point that the Tusker guide, the amazing and wonderful Simon, stood in front of me and said, “You can do this. We just go pole pole.” Pole Pole means slow, slow.

     

    Looking at the three people who DSF had put on the team, 3 people who had lost or given more than I could ever fathom for the freedoms and liberties of this country, I shut my mouth, I stopped crying and just went up the mountain, pole pole.

     

    All 5 of us summited Kili.

     

    It will hurt. You will have sore muscles. You may lose toenails and have terrible blisters. You may have a ridiculous sunburn because you forget sunscreen on summit day. You will sweat and stink. You might have crazy nightmares because of the anti-malaria medications.  None of this will matter, because you are doing something that only 35,000 people a year attempt, and you are doing it for all the right reasons. You will see a sky so brilliantly clear that every star is visible, and you realize how spectacular being alive is. You will meet people that will change your life. You will dance at sunrise, and you will cry at the beauty of a sunset.

     

    I kept waiting for my epiphany on the mountain. Hoping that there would be some clarification to my purpose, my value in this world. Don’t saddle yourself with that expectation – because if you’re in each moment on that Mountain, if you breathe deep and keep your eyes open, you don’t need that lightning bolt; you’ll realize you’re exactly where you’re meant to be and doing exactly what you are meant to be doing.

     

    Pole pole, friends and enjoy the journey.”

     

                                 -Ayron (civilian climber)

     

     

     

  • Warrior Climber Nick

    Warrior Climber Nick is approaching his 9th year on active duty with the last seven under the U.S. Army Special Forces Command as a Green Beret.  In September of 2012 while on patrol in Afghanistan Nick was struck by shrapnel blowing a self-described, “lemon-sized hole out of [his] right shoulder.”  Nick refused medical evacuation.  In November of the same year a vehicle in Nick’s patrol was struck by an improvised explosive device (IED).  Nick recalled, “There were three enemies firing at the vehicle.  I neutralized two of them and the third one took off running.”  Nick chased after him and was hit with a bullet in the face.  Nick’s team leader Seth lost his right leg in the IED blast and other members of his vehicle received traumatic injuries.  Nick once again refused medical evacuation.

     

    Then on March 11, 2013, while training partner Afghan Security Forces, one of the Afghans turned his fully automatic weapon on Nick and his teammates.  Nick hit the ground, but noticed another soldier froze.  He jumped up and saved the man’s life.  Nick was hit several times in his right leg, severing his femoral artery.  Captain Andrew Pedersen-Keel, Nick’s new team leader, who replaced Seth, was killed and so was Staff Sergeant Rex Schad.  It took more than an hour for Nick to be evacuated.  At the first field hospital Nick was given the wrong blood and his body started to shut down.  He was then evacuated to Baghram Airfield where he was given a full blood transfusion and received 20 surgeries before being evacuated to Walter Reed Medical Center near Washington D.C.

     

    Nick received several more surgeries at Walter Reed and after two months was fitted with a prosthesis.  When offered medical retirement, Nick refused.  He rehabilitated and is now deployed into combat for the second time since his injury, on a Special Forces Team.

     

    Nick received 3 purple hearts in less than 6 months because of the incidents described above.  He is also the recipient of the Silver Star, the Bronze Star w/ Valor “V,” and the SOCOM Excalibur Award, among his other prestigious awards.

  • Warrior Climber Nate

    Warrior Climber Nate is approaching his 10th year on active duty with the last 7 under the U.S. Army Special Forces Command as a Green Beret.  During these 7 years in the Special Forces community Nate has been deployed multiple times to numerous theaters including Africa and Afghanistan.

    In 2012 Nate was deployed to Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, he and Nick were teammates on the same ODA (Operational Detachment Alpha).  In the November 2012 IED incident in which Nick was shot in the face, Nate had been manning the MK 44 Minigun in the turret of the vehicle that was struck.  Nate was thrown more than 40 feet from the vehicle and received multiple fractures to his left leg and ankle as well as injuries to his head, back and neck.  Nate was evacuated to Walter Reed Medical Center where he rehabilitated and returned to duty on his same ODA.

     

    In August of 2015 Nate and his team were back in Afghanistan.  While returning to the team’s compound from conducting airfield operations inside a friendly Afghan base, his vehicle approached an inner perimeter security checkpoint manned by two Afghan soldiers.  One soldier approached the vehicle while the other stood by the tower of the checkpoint.  The team’s interpreter got out of the vehicle and spoke to the guards.  Moments later, the Afghan soldiers opened fire on the vehicle, instantly killing the driver, Air Force Combat Controller (CCT) Captain Matt Roland, and mortally wounding SSGT Forrest Sibley. Nate returned fire and was struck in the face with a bullet, shattering his jaw.  Nate’s jaw fell from his face and he caught it in his hand.  Noticing Forrest’s wounds Nate began first aide before passing out from loss of blood.  Forrest died soon after.

    Nate was evacuated once again to Walter Reed in Washington D.C.  This time Nick, Nate’s former teammate, escorted Nate to Washington D.C.  Nick was deployed at the same time, but had not yet returned to full operational duty on the ODA.  Nate required major facial reconstruction and massive amounts of airway rehabilitation.

     

    Today Nate and Nick are deployed in combat together, continuing to fight our nation’s enemies as U.S. Army Green Berets.

  • Gold Star Climbers Mark and Barbara Roland

    Gold Star Climbers Mark and Barbara Roland are parents of fallen Air Force Special Tactics Officer (Combat Controller) Captain Matthew Roland who was killed on August 26, 2015. Warrior Climber Nate was wounded while returning fire in the same incident.

     

    Captain Roland was posthumously awarded the Silver Star medal for heroically giving his last full measure to save the lives of his teammates. Seconds before the attack, he recognized the imminent threat and gave his convoy enough time to react to the insider attack with a radio call. Simultaneously, Capt. Roland knowingly put himself in the line of fire by moving the bus to protect the vehicle occupants, giving them precious time to react and neutralize both gunmen. Capt. Roland was transporting Special Operations team members who had just arrived to the forward operating base as part of NATO’s Operation Resolute Support.  He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

    Matthew was the Team Lead for Blue Team with the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, Hurlburt Field, FL.

    This was his third deployment since graduating from the US Air Force Academy in 2010 and joining Blue Team in the spring of 2012.  He had previously deployed to Afghanistan and Africa.

    He is survived by his paternal grandparents, maternal grandmother, sister, niece and his parents.

     

    Barbara, Matthew’s mother is a High School Special Education teacher who served as an Air Force Nurse, separating after her first tour of duty.  His father, a retired Air Force officer with 30 years of service served as B-52 and B-1 navigator/bombardier and in various other positions in his career.

  • Gold Star Climber Maggie Duskin

    Gold Star Climber Maggie Duskin met her husband Michael in 1990 while working at UPS.  Their mutual love of hot rods, sarcasm, and being on the water in St Augustine, FL brought them together. They married in 1993 just before Michael left to join the Army.  They, and their son Nathan were first stationed at 3rd Ranger Battalion, Ft. Benning, GA.  Their son Jake was born in 1995, and they decided to give civilian life a try.  It didn't last long, Michael was back in the Army, joining 20th Special Forces Group (SFG).  In August of 2001 their beautiful daughter Lexie was born, and September 11th changed the course of their lives.  Michael deployed shortly after and for a year Maggie raised a teenage boy, a very active 7-year-old boy, and a baby on her own.  Upon his return from OEF 1 Michael joined 3rd SFG and the Duskins moved to Ft. Bragg, NC.  Maggie knew this was Michael’s dream job and supported his decision 100%.

     

    By 2012 Michael was a father and grandfather, Nathan had married, had a child, and joined the Army like his father.  Nathan was in the Infantry and stationed in Germany.  In September Michael deployed for the 7th and final time in support of the Global War on Terror.  Maggie, Jake, Lexie, and Michael’s parents and sister saw him and his team off from Pope Army Air Field.

     

    On October 22, 2012 Michael called Maggie and seemed very excited.  As Maggie puts it, “I figured the boys were headed out on a mission soon based on how happy he seemed.  But I couldn't sleep that night and the next morning my world was just not quite right, then it came to a crashing halt.”

     

    On October 23, 2012 CW2 Michael S. Duskin was killed by small arms fire in a wooded valley in Chak-e-Wardak, Afghanistan.  Maggie’s and the kids’ lives would change forever.

     

    After the funeral and memorials were done, Michael’s teammates returned home and wanted to memorialize Michael and Riley Stephens, who was a friend and former team member of Michael’s Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA).  Maggie agreed, only if the occasion was uplifting and fun.  Maggie said, “Michael never wanted us to cry over his death because he went out doing what he truly loved.  He wanted us to celebrate his life, so it began.”  That one-time party resulted in an annual event and the creation of The Duskin and Stephens Foundation.

     

    This summer will mark the 5th year since Maggie last saw Michael.  Maggie gave her reasons for wanting to join the climb, “Michael was always pushing the envelope on everything he did, and encouraged everyone else to do the same.  Being a stay at home mom and him always gone, it didn't afford me the chance to do much of that. While I still have one child at home, I am pushing outside of my safety net.  Last year I tandem jumped into the Beef and Beer, and I am pretty sure he was laughing his ass off at me.  This year on the 5-year anniversary of his death, I will take the longest walk of my life and climb a mountain that I know won't have a beach at the top!”

     

    Please support Maggie and all our climbers as they take a trip of a lifetime on the Kilimanjaro Climb for Valor!

     

  • Gold Star Climber Ken

    Gold Star Climber SFC Kenneth Stephens is approaching his 20th year on active duty as a Military Police Officer and is due to retire this year.  He has deployed three times in support of the global war on terror. SFC Stephens is married to Gail Stephens from Craig, Alaska and they have two boys Michael (14) and Jasen (13) who attend school in Tolar, Texas.

     

    On September 28, 2012 Ken’s brother, Riley, was killed by small arms fire while returning fire and repositioning members of the Afghan Force partnered with his team.  Riley had volunteered to deploy with a team in need after just returning from 7 months in Afghanistan in June 2012.  He deployed multiple times in support of the War on Terror and was approaching retirement.  Riley is one of the namesakes of the foundation.

     

    The Stephens are a proud Americans who understand the meaning of family.  Ken and his parents Mic and JoAnn live by the motto, “It’s all about family.”  Riley was known throughout 3rd SFG(A) for saying that same quote.  When Riley was killed an integral and candid part of the Stephens family was lost.

    One of Ken’s fondest and proud moments with Riley was when he came to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri and promoted Ken to Sergeant First Class on December 1, 2009.  Ken was a Drill Sergeant at the time.  It was an inspiring moment for Ken and for the basic trainees he was molding.

     

    Ken is honored to participate in the Kilimanjaro Climb for Valor.  His father Mic wanted to climb to honor Riley, but reluctantly cannot due to doctor’s orders.  Ken is proud to climb in place of Mic and to honor Riley’s legacy.

     

     

     

 2017 KILIMANJARO CLIMB FOR VALOR

AUGUST 20 - 30, 2017

"BIG MIKE" DUSKIN

 RILEY STEPHENS

SHOP

© Copyright 2015 Duskin & Stephens Foundation