To Prove I’m Me Again – Veteran to Hike Appalachian Trail for No Barriers
She felt guilty that she lived.
On Adele Loar’s second tour in Iraq, an IED blast to her vehicle killed her partner Dan Kuhlmeier and driver Jesse Davila. She was evacuated, but sustained life-altering injuries. She lost her right eye, part of her upper shoulder and “had a hole in the side of my face.”
Later, she was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress. But what went without a diagnosis was the lasting guilt that she “sent them to their deaths.”
While she logically knew that her injuries shouldn’t prevent her from living – living like she used to before the explosion — that sinking feeling always seemed to get in the way.
“I signed up for a lot of things, but didn’t follow through,” she said. “I wanted to be the best, but felt like I didn’t deserve it.”
Working in the civilian world helped retrieve some of that confidence. But it wasn’t until she found out about No Barriers Warriors and was accepted into our Warriors to Summits program that she started making real strides.
With a team of a dozen other veterans, she climbed to the highest point in the contiguous United States — Mount Whitney — and stood on the summit as the sun rose. In that moment, she realized that carrying the guilt did their memories no good. That by not living to her potential she was doing them and their families a disservice.
“I felt a release of that guilt when I got up there,” she said. “I felt like the guys were with me. It was this huge sense of peace, like it’s all good.”
Since her Whitney climb, Adele has remained active with No Barriers, attending the Summit and representing our work in various speeches and engagements. And she hasn’t lost her love for hiking and the feeling of being in the wilderness.
“There’s no judgment out there,” she said.
During a few of those hikes she came across a few Appalachian Trail thru-hikers. She made up her mind to hike the 2,200-mile trail north, starting in April at Springer Mountain, Georgia, and ending at Mount Katahdin, Maine.
“This is to push me to let me know why I lived,” she said. “Whitney did it in one aspect — it got me back into the mindset that I’m not a failure and I can push myself. But this is to really prove it’s me.”
She hopes to raise awareness of No Barriers and money to support our programming. She also hopes people both in and outside of the No Barriers community will join her on the trail.
“I was going to do it anyway, so I figured, ‘Why not do it for a good cause and raise awareness for No Barriers and all they do,’” she said.
Before starting the hike, Adele plans to have Dan and Jesse’s initials tattooed on her wrist as a constant reminder of her goals.
“I need to live for all of us,” she said. “Their initials are already tattooed on my prosthetic eye and I’ll carry their flags with me. It really is about pushing myself to live for all three of us and get my head back into who I was.”
Cindy Bean, No Barriers’ Chief Development Officer, said she was proud of Adele and hopes that others will join in supporting her.
“We are always so grateful when one of our participants, or a family member, decides to reach further for themselves while supporting the work we do here at No Barriers,” she said. “Adele’s ambitious trek is a great example of doing well by doing good. On it she’ll not only be furthering her personal goals toward living a full and meaningful life, but in turn she’ll be helping us serve others.”
Contribute to Adele’s fundraiser here: https://www.crowdrise.com/nobarriersontheappal