Kirk Bauer, Neil Duncan na Dan Nevins
Maaskari watatu wa zamani raia wa Marekani waliokatwa viungo vyao vya mwili wamepanda mlima Kilimanjaro, wakistahamili maporomoko na majeraha kufikia kilele cha mlima mrefu barani Afrika kila mmoja akiwa na mguu mmoja tu ambao ni imara.
Watu hao kutoka Vietnam, Afghanistan na Iraq, walikwea hadi kufikia juu ya mlima huo wenye urefu wa mita 5,891 uliopo nchini Tanzania.
Iliwachukua siku sita kufikia kileleni kwa nia ya kuonyesha kuwa ulemavu haumaanishi huna uwezo wa kufanya lolote.
Safari hiyo huchukua siku tano hadi sita, na ilibidi watu hao kusimama mara kwa mara ili kurekebisha miguu yao ya bandia, baada ya kuteleza sana.
Wakweaji hao wa mlima ni Dan Nevins, mwenye umri wa miaka 37, ambaye alipoteza miguu yake nchini Iraq, Neil Duncan, wa miaka 26, alipoteza miguu yote miwili katika shambulio la bomu lililotegwa barabarani Afghanistan mwaka 2005; na Kirk Bauer, mwenye miaka 62, aliyepoteza mguu mmoja huko Vietnam mwaka 1969.
Bw Bauer aliliambia shirika la habari la AP, " Ikiwa watu watatu waliokatwa viungo kutoka vita vitatu tofauti na kutoka vizazi tofauti na wana mguu mmoja tu wanaweza kupanda mlima Kilimanjaro, marafiki zetu wengine walemavu wanaweza kutoka na kupanda mlima au kuendesha basikeli au kuogelea, na wanaweza kuwa na maisha yenye afya njema."
Bw Nevis alipata jeraha katika kigutu ya moja ya miguu yake hiyo ya bandia na baada ya kufika kileleni aliondoshwa kwa kutumia machela.
Bw Bauer ni mkurugenzi mtendaji wa michezo ya walemavu wa Marekani, shirika lililopo mjini Wasington DC linaloshughulika na uzima wa afya na ushiriki wa michezo kwa walio na ulemavu.
Three disabled veterans. Three unfulfilled dreams. One distant mountaintop.
When they open their eyes Monday morning, Kirk Bauer, Neil Duncan and Dan Nevins will climb from their tents, shoulder their packs and begin a weeklong quest to conquer Mount Kilimanjaro, at 19,340 feet, Africa's highest peak.
"And we only have one good leg among us," says Bauer, 62, who has the good leg.
To reach the top, they will pass through four climate zones, negotiate boulder fields and loose rock, and fight the thin air and effects of altitude sickness. If their artificial limbs fail under the stress, the three combat veterans have vowed to complete the climb on crutches.
Bauer, an Army squad leader in Vietnam, lost his leg during a 1969 ambush when a grenade exploded nearby. Duncan, 27, lost both his legs while serving in Afghanistan in 2005 when an improvised explosive device tore through his body. An IED also cost Nevins, 39, his left leg in 2004 while he served in Iraq. Nearly three years later, the Lansdowne High graduate had the right leg amputated to fend off a life-threatening infection.
"It's a cross-war, intergenerational team," says Bauer, who lives in Ellicott City.
And it has a name with attitude: Team Missing Parts in Action.
The challenge began with a challenge. Before a banquet in Colorado for disabled skiers late last year, Duncan told Bauer of his failed attempt to reach the summit of Kilimanjaro, adding, "I can't live with myself, knowing that I failed."
In his remarks before about 600 banquet-goers, Bauer repeated the story, which prompted Duncan to issue his challenge.
"He shamed me into it," says Bauer, grinning. "It's a 'Bucket List' kind of thing. I've never done anything like this."
While modest, the statement isn't quite true. An accomplished ski racer, he has completed the Marine Corps Marathon and the Boston Marathon, hiked the Grand Canyon and climbed several 14,000-foot mountains in the Rockies.
As executive director of Disabled Sports USA Inc. for 28 years, he has guided the Rockville-based organization through a period of tremendous growth, helping military personnel and civilians rebuild their lives through sports and outdoors activities.
Bauer started out as a client in 1969 after winning two Bronze Stars for heroism in Vietnam.
"It could have turned into a pity party, but they were the ones who got me skiing right out of the hospital," he says of Disabled Sports USA. "They helped turn my life around. One day on the slopes changed my mind."