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San Diego veteran seeks help in wounded warrior Denali mission

Posted at 5:05 PM, Apr 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-22 20:05:09-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Four veterans living with life-altering injuries are training to climb the highest peak in North America.

Alaska's Denali is an unforgiving mountain, 20,000 feet high with temperatures below zero.

"Sheeting snow hitting you in the face like sand, blowing you back down the mountain, stepping through knee-deep fresh powder carrying all that weight. It's pretty indescribable," said Marine Corps veteran Paul Kitchin.

Kitchin lives in Jamul, but the other veterans are spread across the country.

They've all attempted the climb with help from Warfighter Sports but were turned around due to dangerous weather conditions. They hope to complete it this time around, beginning on June 20.

“It’s an unfinished task, it's a challenge that I attempted and failed, and I want to attempt it again and succeed," said Kitchin.

His military career was cut short after seven years due to a debilitating knee injury. Kitchin also has permanent lung damage after being exposed to a dangerous chemical compound stateside in 1997 when a halon fire suppression system discharged during an amphibious vehicle rollover at sea.

The other three veterans are amputees; two are double amputees.

Kitchin said their original funding source fell through and they're now looking to the community for help.

"These guys left pieces on the battlefield. This is something that helps rehabilitate them. The press around it will hopefully motivate other service people who are injured to get out and rehabilitate.”

They team, dubbed 'Denali -Second Assault', must raise over $20,000 to cover travel, permits, and a guide company. The company Mountain Trip has also provided their services at a discount.

“It’s just very hard to explain the psychological effect that going back out and doing something extremely difficult does for you when you’ve had something taken away from you," said Kitchin.

There are two ways you can donate:

If a business is able to donate $5,000 the men will carry a flag with their company's name and take photos of it at the top of Denali.

Only two double amputees have made it to the top of this mountain.