San Francisco — On first look, a hiker who recently made his way up a Utah mountain appeared to have a backpack. But look closely, and you could see there was a man on his back — a man with no legs.
Just a few days ago, John Nelson carried his friend Jonathon Blank, who weighs 135 pounds, more than 14 miles to the summit of Mount Timpanogos. “We shared a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get to where we were, and it was all worth it,” Blank said.
They had already shared a lot as Marines serving in Afghanistan. They were together on a mission in 2010 when a hidden bomb exploded beneath Blank, ripping off both his legs and almost killing him.
“I came too like I was waking up out of a dream. The pain like, slowly, just washed over me like a wave,” Blank said.
His recovery took some 60 surgeries over three years. But he remained determined to live an active life and he has. “We’re also special operations guys. We’re Force Recon Marines, we can do anything. Maybe we can instill that mindset in other people,” Blank said.
He moved to Utah where the outdoors beckoned him to adventure. He hunts, sails and skis. But to reach a mountain top, he needed a friend. “I got legs. I could not imagine,” Nelson said.
Another mission accomplished for two Marines who could not imagine failing.