Even before his Army career officially takes off, soon-to-be second lieutenant Harold Earls is thinking ahead.
Before he is posted to Fort Stewart, Ga., not far from his Cumming, Ga., home, Earls is planning a campaign that will take him about as far from the steamy south as he could get, all to bring attention to a growing issue for his fellow military members.
Earls, Army’s third baseman, is training for and organizing a spring 2016 campaign to climb Mount Everest, the tallest peak on the planet (29,029 feet), to bring attention to post-traumatic stress disorder. On average, 22 members of the military or former military members commit suicide a day and Earls is hoping to literally raise awareness to the top of the world.
Climbing Everest is a daunting task any time but the past two climbing seasons have seen unprecedented numbers killed in the attempt. On April 25, 18 climbers, including 10 Sherpas, were killed in the earthquake-sparked avalanche that has killed more than 8,000 people in Nepal. The 2014 season was also cut short after an avalanche on the mountain killed dozens of Sherpa guides, who refused to climb the rest of the season.
Earls, who considers himself a novice mountaineer, said he plans to work with his climbing team over the next year to build that up by summitting Mount Rainier, Denali and other peaks in the U.S. to build is climbing skills.
According to Army Times, the climb will launch U.S. Expeditions and Explorations, founded by Earls and Capt. Matt Hickey to offer similar adventures for service members with the goal to build a sense of pride and teamwork. The group would back expeditions and support other nonprofit groups with a similar goal.
Also on the team is former staff sergeant Chad Jukes, an Iraq veteran and amputee. According to Army Times, Jukes has climbed Mount Rainier, the Grand Teton and Lobuche, a 20,000-foot peak in Nepal. That climb, which included 11 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, was featured in the documentary "High Ground."