If the journey Benjamin Breckheimer begins today is successful, he’ll be the first Purple Heart recipient to have climbed all of the famed Seven Summits. Alaska’s Denali, with a summit elevation of 20,310 feet above sea level, is the highest mountain peak in North America and the final box for Breckheimer to check on this particular list.
The U.S. Army veteran was severely wounded in Afghanistan when an improvised explosive device detonated, crushing the driver’s side of the Stryker vehicle he was driving. That was 10 years ago. Breckheimer’s right leg was severely injured, and he’s undergone numerous surgeries since the 2009 incident. After returning home, he faced a divorce and severe depression. At his lowest point, he almost ended his life — but something stopped him.
Breckheimer medically retired from the Army in 2013 and committed himself to mountaineering as a means to rehabilitate from his injuries. He pursued training and guidance, eventually enrolling in a Mountaineering Expedition Leader Course. Though his initial climbs were less than encouraging, he persisted, setting his sights on the first of the Seven Summits, Russia’s Mount Elbrus. When he successfully summited Elbrus, Breckhemier was motivated to continue working through the next six peaks, with the goal of becoming the first Purple Heart recipient/combat-wounded veteran to accomplish the feat.
Today marks the beginning of his final month-long ascent, and Coffee or Die will be checking in on his progress. Check back for updates as he strives to accomplish this historic goal.
Katie McCarthy is the managing editor for Coffee or Die Magazine. Her career in journalism began at the Columbus (Georgia) Ledger-Enquirer in 2008, where she learned to navigate the newsroom as a features reporter, copy editor, page designer, and online producer; prior to joining Coffee or Die, she worked for Outdoor Sportsman Group as an editor for Guns & Ammo magazine and their Special Interest Publications division. Katie currently lives in Indiana with her husband and two daughters.
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