Walking With The Wounded
WILTSHIRE, U K (This Is Wiltshire) - A Wiltshire man is part of a group of injured servicemen who arrived in Nepal today ahead of an expedition to climb to the top of the world's highest mountain.
Five current and former soldiers, including Capt Francis Atkinson, 31, from Swindon, who suffered gun-shot wounds, horrific burns and amputated limbs, will attempt to reach the summit of Mount Everest in May for the Walking With The Wounded charity.
They will spend the next three days in Kathmandu making last-minute preparations and gathering their kit before setting off on a 10-day trek to Everest Base Camp at 5,267m (17,280 ft).
From there, they will make an assault on the summit, which is 8,848m(29,028 ft) above sea level.
Charity patron Prince Harry, who last year joined a Walking With The Wounded expedition for the first four days of a successful trip to the North Pole, paid a surprise visit to the men as they left the UK.
He chatted to the team and wished them luck over the coming months.
He said: "The expedition to The Himalayas - of which I am so proud to be patron - is raising money to train and educate those with physical and cognitive injuries suffered in war to manage their transition into civilian employment."
Expedition manager and North Pole veteran Martin Hewitt was shot twice through his right shoulder in Afghanistan in 2007, which paralysed his arm.
The 31-year-old former Captain in the Parachute Regiment, from Widnes, Cheshire, said: "We are very fortunate to have Prince Harry as our patron.
"He continually spends time with us to raise the profile of the charity. And on a personal level, he's a good friend."
Mr Hewitt was last in Nepal in September and October last year, when the team scaled Manaslu, which at 8,156m, (26,758 ft) is the world's eighth highest mountain.
He said: "It feels good to be back here. We were here last in October, but it feels like it was only yesterday we left.
"The last six months have gone by really quickly. The excitement will build as we see the mountains."
Comparing the North Pole expedition to Everest, Mr Hewitt said: "This is much more dangerous. The danger levels are significantly increased.
"My injury will have a much greater impact on my ability to do this."
The rest of the team is made up of Captain David Wiseman, Private Jaco van Gass and former Private Karl Hinett.
Capt Atkinson suffered a gunshot wound to his right upper arm while serving as a doctor in Afghanistan. It caused significant nerve damage, and as a result his right hand does not function properly.
Capt Wiseman, 29, from Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, was shot in the chest during a firefight with the Taliban in Afghanistan in November 2009.
North Pole trekker Private Jaco van Gass, 25, from Middleburg, South Africa had his left arm blown off when he was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) in Afghanistan.
Mr Hinett, 25, from Tipton, West Midlands, sustained 37 per cent burns to his hands, legs, arms and face when his Warrior tank received a direct hit by a petrol bomb in Basra, Iraq in 2005.
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Updated 1912 days ago Article ID# 1523769
Walking With The Wounded