Aaron Hale and his family have climbed many mountains in the past few years.
A battle injury that blinded him.
His wife’s battle with cancer.
The conquering of a South American summit.
Last month, Hale, blinded in a roadside bombing in Afghanistan, and a dozen other wounded American service members climbed nearly 18,000 feet to the top of Mariposa, known as Butterfly Mountain, in the Peruvian Andes.
“It was exhilarating,” said Hale, 35, the main speaker at a Summa Western Reserve Hospital medical staff meeting Thursday evening at the John S. Knight Center in Akron. He told the audience about his health-care experiences — numerous operations, procedures, therapy and appointments — and how they have affected his life and others.
“I want to take the next step,” said Hale, who dreams of climbing Mount Everest.
Since he was injured Dec. 8, 2011, Hale has undergone two dozen surgeries at eight hospitals. Along with losing his eyesight, he also suffered a 70 percent hearing loss in the bombing.
He was medically retired from the Army as a staff sergeant in late September and took part in the climb in the Andes last month with the group Soldiers to Summits.
Hale, a Revere High graduate, attended Bowling Green State University before serving in the Navy from 1999 to 2007 as a cook. After that enlistment, he joined the Army as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal soldier as an expert in disarming bombs.
Hale served a short tour in Iraq with the Army before he was deployed to Afghanistan in the spring of 2011. He was injured after discovering a bomb in Kandahar province.
After removing a triggering device from a bomb by using a robotic instrument, Hale approached the roadside bomb. The rest of his unit was in a nearby armored vehicle as Hale, wearing protective gear, walked up to the bomb.
When he was still several feet away, it detonated.
Dr. Sonny Bare, an emergency room physician at Summa Western Reserve Hospital and a friend of Hale’s since childhood, introduced him at Thursday’s event.
“He is one of those exceptional people who rarely thinks about themselves, but instead dedicates his time, passion and life pursuits to the well-being of others,” Bare said.
He said that Hale “has always been a warrior, not just on the battlefield, but in every aspect of his life.”
Hale said that part of the mission statement of the Soldiers to Summits group “is that it is not just about climbing mountains. It is also about overcoming our challenges. The mountain is a metaphor.”
Hale and his wife, Kelly, are the parents of four children. He plans to return to school to study finance and hopes to learn to work with a guide dog.
“I am doing great,” he said. “I love everything about my life.”
Kelly Hale was diagnosed with malignant melanoma while her husband was being treated for his injuries. She now works as Warrior Advocate and Mission Spokeswoman for the group Building Homes for Heroes, an organization that donated a free home to the Hales in Santa Rosa Beach, Fla.
Hale believes that had he not been wounded, his wife’s cancer would not have been discovered and everything could be different. She is in good health, he said, and loves her job.
“It was luck — good fortune,” he said.
The whole series of events over the past years have given Hale and his family a new lease on life, he said.
“I am going out and talking to others and mentoring and sucking the marrow out of life,” he said.
For more on Soldiers to Summits go to www.soldierstosummits.org,
For more on Building Homes for Heroes go to www.buildinghomesforheroes.org.
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or email@example.com.