Operation Denali Aims to Help Wounded Vets

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

President Obama has said he wants to incorporate National Parks into plans for helping returning war veterans have success in overcoming physical and physiological injuries. One Alaska soldier is way ahead of that plan.

These days Major Mark Hoffmeister runs marathons, skis and ice climbs. But just a few years ago, he was struggling to recover from a severe injury he sustained while on patrol in Iraq. The vehicle he was riding in was hit by an explosively formed penetrator. Shrapnel hit his body and head, causing the most damage to one of his arms which now has limited function. The recovery took months. But as he got better, his wife convinced him to hike Crow Pass near Anchorage.

His wife then came up with a much bigger challenge: to summit Denali. In 2009 Major Hoffmeister decided to go for it and ended up taking other wounded vets with him. They called the trip Operation Denali. But he says when his wife first suggested the idea, it seemed like a stretch.

Major Hoffmeister is on active duty and is planning to return to the war zone soon. But he and his wife want to continue helping other wounded vets accomplish outdoor goals.

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