I never thought I would find myself on the tallest mountain in North America. Denali, or Mt. Mckinley as it is known to most outside of Alaska, had been a small vision I sometimes saw on clear days growing up near Fairbanks. It stands towering over the Alaska plains and appears to be more massive storm cloud than mountain. Yet, there I was on May 31 carrying 60 pounds of gear up thousands of feet of glacier on Denali’s lower slopes. Although not the largest item in my pack, the one that weighed heaviest on my heart and mind was a single stone.
This hand picked stone bore the name of a fallen soldier and also the love of his grieving family. Army CPT Benjamin Keating was a soldier from Shapleigh, Maine who was just 27 when killed in action by an IED in Afghanistan. It is not often that one gets an opportunity to carry an item so cherished and this was not lost on me. Every heavy exhausted step I took was marked with an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the moments I am blessed to have and for a beautiful life cut too short.
Our journey on Denali was long and arduous but nothing compared to the suffering CPT Keating’s family has felt. Carrying the stone was a reminder of a life lived and one that keeps on being lived through those that were left behind. The memory of CPT Keating didn’t make it to the summit of Denali this year but I am certain I will forever be changed after 21 days with his memorial stone and love that resonated from it.
On 17 Sept 2015 — Candice Creecy wrote — Good afternoon Ma’am. My name is Captain Candice Creecy. I had the honor of carrying your son’s stone on my Denali expedition in May/June of this year. Although I wish I could have met him in person and exchanged adventure stories over a cold beer, I do feel so honored to have been able to bring him to the highest point in the USA. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to hear about his life and sacrifice. I have placed some photos of the climb on Google Drive as well as a video of our journey. I hope these bring a smile to your face and perhaps capture a bit of his spirit. Thank you once again for sharing his memory with me.
Candice Creecy, June, 2015