OGDEN, Utah (KSTU/CNN) Two Marine Corps veterans in Utah, who served in Afghanistan together, still love to go hiking, even though one lost his legs in a combat injury.
John Nelson, right, decided he would carry fellow veteran Jonathon Blank up 14.3 miles of steep terrain on Utah’s Mt. Timpanogos. (Source: Jonathon Blank/KSTU/Tribune/CNN)
It takes a special kind of brotherhood to carry 135 pounds of weight on your shoulders up 14.3 miles of steep terrain on Utah’s Mt. Timpanogos, but that’s what John Nelson decided to do for fellow veteran Jonathon Blank.
"A few days ago, I drove by, and I was like, ‘You know what? I think I'm going to take John to the top of that by myself,’” Nelson said.
Nelson and Blank served in the special operations unit of the Marine Corps 10 years ago in Afghanistan. Nelson remembers stepping away from where Blank had been standing when an explosive device went off. Blank lost both legs.
"I thought this would be something epic for him to experience, to actually get to the saddle,” Nelson said.
Nelson carried Blank on his back, as the two gained 4,500 feet of elevation. Nelson says the worst part of the trip was the pressure on his shoulders, and Blank said the circulation for his lower body got cut off and swinging his arms around Nelson’s neck made them go numb.
But both said the view from the top was worth it.
"We shed a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get to where we were, and it was all worth it,” Blank said.
Hikers Nate Laird and Phil Casper were coming down the trail when they saw Nelson carrying Blank, and both said the sight left them in awe.
"If that’s what they’re doing for recreation, imagine those guys on the battlefield,” Casper said.
Blank hopes the trip sparks inspiration inside anyone who thinks they can’t accomplish something.
"Not only have I lived through this, he’s lived through it, as well. We're also special operations guys… We can do anything. We can maybe instill that mindset into other people,” he said.
The veterans are already planning another hike, this one on Veterans Day. They intend to hike Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in California at more than 14,500 feet.
"When you see that and the determination to do what they do, it makes you want to do that for your friends and family,” Laird said.