This week, a group of veterans will ascend Wyoming’s highest mountain, Gannett Peak in the Wind River Range in central Wyoming.
The climb is part of a project called Summit for Soldiers and the idea is to help get vets who’ve suffered combat trauma into the outdoors to help them recover.
The group’s founder Mike Fairman said as many as 8,000 vets a year commit suicide, and not long ago he was nearly one of those statistics.
“After I got back from Afghanistan, everything kind of came to a head and I tried to take my life,” Fairman said. “That’s when I realized, even through my mental health team, the one thing I needed was to get back in the outdoors.”
Repurposed missions, he called such treks. He said, while getting outdoors saved him from suicide, he’s seen it save other vets, too.
For instance, he said, “two homeless guys from Cleveland who went with us on a trip to Colorado. And they figured, why be homeless in Cleveland when I can be homeless in Colorado? [They] ended up getting jobs and homes and getting their lives back in order, enrolled back in school.”
Fairman will talk about his ascent of Everest this Thursday, July 27, at the Lander High School. And on Saturday, July 29, he will be in Dubois with 11 other veterans who’ll join him on 13,809 foot Gannett Peak. Fairman said he’ll carry with him a flag bearing the names of 35 veterans he knows personally who’ve committed suicide.