FIGHTING BLIND: A GREEN BERET'S STORY OF EXTRAORDINARY COURAGE

We set out today. The teams, all with wounded war veterans, lined up shoulder to shoulder for the camera. There was a blast of a horn, and we were off, racing against each other to reach the South Pole.

There are twelve veterans, along with guides and Prince Harry of Great Britain on the race. We’re divided into three teams: American, British, Commonwealth. We plan to ski from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day for the next two weeks until we reach the Pole. That’s some two hundred miles across the high plain of Antarctica to the exact bottom of the earth. The race is sponsored by Walking With the Wounded, a British charity with the backing of Prince Harry. The group does extreme things to raise money and tell the world that being wounded doesn’t mean giving up.

Whether we win or not—and we will win—I’ll be the first blind American and the first wounded American serviceman to make it. The first Puerto Rican as well. At least as far as I know.

We ski with a small sled of equipment tied to our waists. Because I can’t see, I’m guided by another team member, gently tugged by a line tied to his sled.

The terrain is anything but smooth – wind-swept snow and ice form an endless sea of sastrugi, shallow ridges formed on the ice by wind and erosion. They’re like waves of ice and frozen snow, hard as a rock. Skiing over them is a challenge; at times it’s more like stomping. The sastrugi are a hazard for everyone, but especially me. Being blind, I have no idea of their size or shape. I slip and slide at every push. Soon after we started this morning, I tripped and fell face first into the snow; some of the other members of the team had to pull me out.

Everyone knows the South Pole is cold, but you need to have the sweat on your fingers freeze in your mittens before you can really understand cold. And only when that happens at the warmest time of day do you understand the South Pole.

 

Fighting Blind -- Excerpt 

South Pole Diary;

December 1, 2013:

 In the cold