Natalie's Everyday Heroes: Benjamin Breckheimer becomes first Purple Heart recipient to climb Seven Summits
MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- A few weeks ago, CBS 58 introduced you to Army veteran and Menomonee Falls native, Benjamin Breckheimer. He set a goal to become the first Purple Heart recipient to climb the highest mountain on all seven continents. This month, he set out to finish that journey.
"It really hasn't hit me yet, that I did this," Breckheimer said via a zoom call from his hotel room in Anchorage, Alaska.
He realizes it's not often in life that you get to be the very first to accomplish something. But by standing on the summit of Mt. Denali in Alaska -- the highest peak on the North American continent -- Breckheimer achieved that goal.
"It was such a perfect day. It was absolutely beautiful. We were truly blessed with such great weather," he said of the moment.
Breckheimer spent the month of June in Alaska with his team, preparing for the climb. It's one mountain, but the culmination of an epic journey.
"It took a lot for me to get this far the past seven years and I wouldn't have been able to do it without the support I've had," he said.
Breckheimer was deployed to Afghanistan in 2009, and he was severely injured in an IED explosion. He had to be airlifted out with a perforated eardrum, fractured vertebrae and severe leg injuries. His recovery took him four years, and to the lowest of lows.
But also to the highest of highs. He turned to climbing to help with his physical, mental and emotional recovery.
"And it's sort of cliché, but it's really about the journey and not the summit. And the journey has just been truly amazing," he said.
That journey has taken him around the world. To the top of Mount Everest, Kilimanjaro in Africa, Elbrus in Russia, and Aconcagua in South America. He also raised his Menomonee Falls High School flag in Antarctica. By reaching the summit of Mt. Denali, he becomes the very first combat wounded veteran to complete the Seven Summits.
He said he may now be done with mountain climbing.
"Honestly, big mountain expeditions for me are probably over," he said with a laugh.
Time will tell, but Breckheimer said his goal is to now help other veterans achieve the heights he's achieved. He is specifically focusing on fundraising efforts to help the first female Purple Heart recipient get to the top of Mount Everest. He is working with One Team Colgan Foundation on the effort. To find more information, just visit www.oneteamcf.org.
To celebrate his accomplishment, Breckheimer is spending some time with family, exploring Alaska.
And if you'd like to nominate someone for Natalie's Everyday Heroes, send Natalie a message at NShepherd@cbs58.com.