Marine amputee climbs Pendleton’s First Sergeant’s Hill to honor his fallen comrades
Some would say the two-minute video captures everything that is best about the Marine Corps — a one-legged vet pushing through immense pain to conquer a colossal hill that memorializes fallen comrades. Beside him, brothers in arms shout words of encouragement and motivation. Within him, the memory of lost Marines provides strength to endure.
The climb was part of a five-year reunion that honored the Marines and families of 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, which was hit hard during a 2011 deployment to Afghanistan.
The “Dark Horse” battalion made great gains, but at great cost, when it deployed in and around the town of Sangin, in Afghanistan’s embattled Helmand province. In seven months, the battalion saw 25 Marines killed in action and another 184 wounded. Nearly three dozen of the wounded returned home as single, double and triple amputees.
Among them is former Cpl. Josue Barron, who lost a leg and his left eye in the conflict, and is shown in the April 30 video.
“When I saw that steep hill, I doubted myself a little bit,” Barron told Marine Corps Times. And with good reason — First Sergeant’s Hill rises far above the regimental headquarters at Camp Pendleton, California, and is a beast for even healthy Marines.
Worse yet, the hill’s grade prevented Barron from performing the swinging motion needed to propel his prosthetic leg, which reaches to his hip. He decided to ditch the leg and press on.
“After a while my body went numb, but I wanted to get up there,” he said. “I have friends up there, and there was no way I was coming back down without reaching them.”
The friends of whom he speaks are names engraved on nearly two dozen wooden crosses. Marines put them up to honor their fallen, and the site has become hallowed ground. It is so special that a team of seven leathernecks rushed to rescue the memorial crosses just before wildfires consumed the hill in May 2014.
“We used to do that climb before we deployed, but the crosses didn’t go up until after that so I had never seen them,” Barron
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