Former Fort Carson soldier joins Prince Harry to reach South Pole

By Erin Prater Updated: December 13, 2013 at 5:47 pm • Published: December 13, 2013 | 5:45 pm 0
photo - This undated photo made available by Walking with the Wounded (WWTW) on Saturday Dec. 7, 2013 shows Britain's Prince Harry, right, during training near Novo, Antarctica, ahead of an Antarctic charity race. Organizers of the race involving Prince Harry say they are suspending the competition due to harsh conditions but plan to continue the journey to the South Pole. Harry, 29, is a member of one of three teams involving injured soldiers that set off last week on the 200-mile (320-kilometer) Walking with the Wounded South Pole Challenge. (AP Photo/Robert Leveritt, WWTW)
This undated photo made available by Walking with the Wounded (WWTW) on Saturday Dec. 7, 2013 shows Britain's Prince Harry, right, during training near Novo, Antarctica, ahead of an Antarctic charity race. Organizers of the race involving Prince Harry say they are suspending the competition due to harsh conditions but plan to continue the journey to the South Pole. Harry, 29, is a member of one of three teams involving injured soldiers that set off last week on the 200-mile (320-kilometer) Walking with the Wounded South Pole Challenge. (AP Photo/Robert Leveritt, WWTW)

A 2007 Air Force Academy graduate injured in Afghanistan is among a group of wounded warriors, led by Britain's Prince Harry, who arrived Friday morning at the South Pole after a four-week, 200-kilometer trek.

The adventurers arrived at 12:48 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time, thus completing the 2013 South Pole Allied Challenge, trip organizer Walking with the Wounded, a British military charity, announced Friday.

Colorado Springs resident Mark Wise and Lakewood resident Margaux Mange, both 28, are members of the four-man "Team Noom Coach," comprised of U.S. wounded warriors.

Additional teams of wounded warriors from the United Kingdom and Australia also made the trek, designed to raise awareness of, and funds for, disabled veterans.

The prince, 29, along with actors Dominic West and Alexander Skarsgard, also participated in the journey.

The challenge was initially a race, but organizers suspended the competitive element last week due to harsh conditions.

After graduating from the academy and cross-commissioning into the Army, Wise completed airborne and ranger training at Fort Benning, Ga. He then became a platoon leader with Fort Carson's 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, according to Walking with the Wounded's website.

While in Afghanistan in 2009, Wise encountered an improvised explosive device that blew off the front half of his body armor. His injuries resulted in a partial hand and forearm amputation, burns and a facial rebuild, according to the website.

Just because his military career is over doesn't mean his service to the nation is, Wise said in a statement on the website.

"As a leader of soldiers, your responsibility never ends," the statement reads. "I feel obligated to continue to set the example for those who follow not only in my footsteps as a wounded service member, but also for those returning home from combat.

"My mission to continue in public outreach directly aligns with the Walking With The Wounded goal of increasing public awareness and fundraising to provide much needed services for our returning veterans."

Sara Wise, Mark Wise's wife, said Friday that she last heard from her husband when he called the day before.

"I think they were about 10 kilometers out, and they could actually see the outpost at that point," she said.

Mark Wise, a financial analyst, and his U.S. team members have been training for the expedition for about a year, she said.

"They've been working really hard," said Sara Wise, who hasn't seen her husband since last month. "You can tell it matters to them and that they really care about raising awareness for wounded soldiers and remembering fallen soldiers."

The former soldier has always been athletic. He competed in the Army Ten-Miler race on the one-year anniversary of his injury in Afghanistan.

But the frigid trek is the first event of its scope that Mark Wise has participated in, Sara Wise said.

Trip participants will fly out of the South Pole soon, said Sara Wise, who is eager to be reunited with her husband.

"All of us are very proud of him," she said. "We miss him, of course, but we're proud of what he's doing, what they're all doing."

Mange was injured by an improvised explosive device in Baghdad, Iraq. Her injuries include Bell's palsy, trigeminal occipital neuralgia and post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the Walking with the Wounded website.

Harry, an army Apache helicopter pilot who has served in Afghanistan, spent several days in 2011 trekking with wounded servicemen on a similar expedition to the North Pole.

The U.S. team was organized by Fort Collins-based nonprofit No Barriers USA and its Soldiers to Summits program, which helps disabled veterans rehabilitate through mountain-climbing expeditions.

Members of the U.S. team should be reunited with their family members in time for Christmas, Jason Eckman, director of Soldiers to Summits, said Friday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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