A Marine Corps veteran who lost his leg in Iraq reached the top of Mount Everest on Thursday to become the first combat amputee to conquer the world's highest mountain.
Thomas Charles "Charlie" Linville, who served as a staff sergeant in the Marine Corps, told USA TODAY before his expedition began that reaching the top of the legendary mountain with its 29,029-foot peak would vanquish personal "demons, showing … people that no, don't you have pity for disabled veterans because we're capable of so much more than you think."
Linville, 30, who lost his leg in 2011 and used a prosthesis to reach the summit, has been climbing the mountain at the same time as another combat amputee, Chad Jukes, 32. They are part of separate teams climbing for two different veterans support organizations. Both parties took the less-traveled but more difficult northern route to the summit out of Tibet. During the last portion of this approach, climbers can spend up to 24 hours in the so-called "death zone" more than 26,000 feet high — a region where the human body begins to break down.
Linville is climbing with The Heroes Project organization and Jukes with U.S. Expeditions & Explorations (USX).
This was the third attempt to climb Everest for Linville, who is a married father with two daughters. Two previous efforts were halted because of an avalanche in 2014 and an earthquake in 2015, incidents that prompted officials to shut down climbing expeditions on the mountain. This year, expeditions gathered on the mountain once again to finally resume summit attempts.
The Associated Press reported Thursday that favorable weather conditions allowed more than 150 climbers to reach the top of the mountain in recent weeks.
"The commitment to Everest has been number one," Linville said in an interview in April. "The family has been on the back-burner and it's been a struggle with the wife and kids. … They always ask me, 'When are you coming home.' And it's difficult. But I believe in what the power of getting to the top will show disabled veterans, and that's important to me.'"