By Grace Austin
THIS DECEMBER, PRINCE HARRY WILL ACCOMPANY A GROUP OF EXTRAORDINARY DISABLED SOLDIERS TO THE SOUTH POLE. DUBBED THE SOUTH POLE ALLIED CHALLENGE, HE WILL SERVE AS THE OFFICIAL EXPEDITION PATRON. The mission will be a culmination of their yearlong journey with Soldiers to Summits, a nonprofit program of No Barriers USA, which uses mountains as a metaphor and training ground to help veterans harness adversities and lead others.
The South Pole Allied Challenge (SPAC) is a race to the geographic South Pole between three teams of disabled soldiers from the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Commonwealth of Nations. SPAC will last approximately four weeks, beginning in November. The team will cover nine to twelve miles per day while pulling pulks, or arctic sleds, under frigid conditions.
SPAC is designed to raise awareness about wounded warriors in the U.S. and abroad, specifically those coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan. More than 5.5 million American soldiers are currently managing a service-related disability.
Just recently, the soldiers participated in a two-week long training session in Iceland.
The team was announced on April 19, with the final selected members of Team US comprised of four wounded warriors. They include Mark Wise, a victim of an IED accident in Afghanistan in 2009, who sustained hand/forearm amputation, facial rebuilding, and burns; Therese Frentz, from Del Rio, Texas, who sustained physical injuries and mental strain, including PTSD and depression; Margaux Mange, who suffers from Bell’s Palsy; and Ivan Castro, a blind soldier who has run more than twenty-four marathons.
Soldiers to Summits have also made recent trips to Mount Cotopaxi in Ecuador in 2012, Nepal’s Mount Lobuche in 2010, and are planning their next expedition to the Peruvian Andes in October 2013.
Margaux Mange previously participated in the Ecuadorian expedition last year. She is partaking in SPAC to motivate other veterans.
“I am participating in the SPAC because I want to inspire other injured vets to keep living. I have had a couple friends write me and say ‘I must admit I’m a bit jealous, but I’m happy for you.’ I know, as I felt the same way when I was first recovering and saw guys climbing Kilimanjaro—they were my jealous inspiration so I hope I can be some ones. Plus it’s the South Pole!” says Mange.
“The SPAC is important because it’s the first challenge of this magnitude with injured veterans from different countries with all different injuries, trying to bring awareness not only to visible wounds but to the invisible wounds.”
The Allied Challenge Team will include guides Ed Parker, founder of Walking With The Wounded, and Inge Solheim, who has more than twenty-one years of experience in expedition and guiding.
“The South Pole Allied Challenge aims to demonstrate the close bond between the participating countries both on and off the battlefield, in rehabilitation and recovery, as the teams tackle the inhospitable Antarctic, overcoming both the savage conditions and their own individual injuries,” says Parker. “We hope the efforts of those in the teams who have overcome injury will inspire many others in the wounded community in all nations to challenge themselves in their future.”