Two veterans who both served as members of the marine force recon just showed the true meaning of brotherhood.
Marine Staff Sgt. Jonathon Blank lost both of his legs after an improvised explosive device that he was standing right next to went off. The tragic event happened in October 2010 while the marine force recon was serving in Afghanistan.
Despite the loss, Blank didn’t let it get in the way of living an active life. After retiring from the Marines in 2014, Blank moved to Utah where he’d been going on adventures. There, he goes hunting, skiing, and sailing.
This weekend, Blank hiked to the top of Mount Timpanogos with a fellow veteran, John Nelson, who carried him on his back. For about a day and a half, Nelson carried the 135-pound Blank up the summit. The pair traversed a distance of above 14 miles, with an elevation change of about 4,500 feet.
The duo got the attention of other hikers on the trail who were impressed by their dedication. Nate Larid, one of the hikers who witnessed the friends’ show of strength, told KSTU, “When you see that, you see that determination for them to do what they do, and you want to do that for you and your families.”
“Most people quit when pain is involved,” Blank said. “And it means more because I’m injured.”
Blank and Nelson were both members of the marine force recon, which is one of the Marine groups capable of special operations.
“We were so determined,” Blank said. “We didn’t get into special operations being quitters.”
As Marines, they were accustomed to carrying rucks weighing 80 pounds. But with Blank, water, and a few supplies, Nelson was shouldering about 145 pounds.
After fighting in Afghanistan, Blank said that he and his buddies stuck together. “We really are like a band of brothers,” he said.
The platoon members he served with are constantly meeting up to go on more adventures. That’s exactly what happened when Nelson, who’s been going around the US for months visiting friends and national parks, did. One day, he parked his camper outside of Blank’s home, and the two have been exploring the area ever since.
Nelson knew that Mount Timpanogos had been calling his comrade’s name since he moved to Utah years ago. He asked him one day, out of the blue, “Wanna go on that hike tomorrow?”
“All right, don’t threaten me with a good time,” Blank responded.
Now that they’ve conquered the mountain, the two are eyeing Mount Whitney as their next climb to mark Veterans Day in November. It is located in the Sierra Nevada range in California’s Sequoia National Park and rises to 14,500 feet above sea level.
“I had wanted to be an elite commando since I was a little kid, and all that got taken away with my injury,” Blank said. “I just want to uphold that reconnaissance community.”
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