U.S. Marine Corporal Kionte Storey has every reason not to embark on the high alpine adventures he takes on.
The 29-year-old from San Diego lost his right leg below the knee, sustained injuries in his left leg and suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2010 when he stepped on an IED in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
Following the blast and life-changing injury, Storey struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts, and used pain pills to cope.
“After my injury, I felt lost and confused,” Storey told Great Big Story in a video feature. “A lot of questions of ‘why.’ Why am I still alive, why am I still here. Suicidal thoughts which made waking up every day very difficult.”
He knew he needed a massive change, so he quit his pain meds cold turkey, according to Fox News, and began training for the Paralympics.
“Being active for me just became my therapy,” he told Great Big Story.
He also turned to climbing some of the world’s tallest peaks. In 2013, he became the first African American and the first amputee to summit Antarctica’s 16,050-foot Mount Vinson.
“With a prosthetic you worry about parts snapping, breaking, and rusting—if anything gives, not only do you become a liability, but you’re useless to move,” he told Semper Fi Fund. “I brought a whole extra prosthetic leg with a foot attached. It weighed about 3-5 pounds, but that’s a lot when hiking up a mountain.”
In July, he took on a 19,000-foot volcano in Ecuador with about 12 other amputees to raise awareness for Range of Motion Project (ROMP), which provides prosthetic and orthotic care to those without access to that type of care all over the world.
Great Big Story caught up with Storey on that trip. Take a look at “Amputees at Altitude:”
In August, Storey took on 19,341-foot Mount Kilimanjaro.
Summiting Mount Kilimanjaro was a success on 8/25 at 10:48. After 8 long hours getting to Gilmans peak from the school hut and an hour or so to move to Stella point me and @jakernature finally touched Uhuru Peak with out any altitude issues and no diamox needed, “Pole Pole” for the win! Many thanks to @teamkilimanjaro for all their hard work and support up this beast. Even more thanks to @cohengive for giving me and jake this once in a lifetime opportunity that we will remember for the rest of our lives. Although we summit please don’t forget this is all a fundraiser and in my bio you will see the link were all funding goes to @stand4heroes #give2veterans #kilimanjaro #amputee #firstascentclimbing #bobwoodrufffoundation #stevenandalexandracohenfoundation
As for what’s next, Storey is facing another huge climb — physical therapy school. But, he knows that’s a one-step-at-a-time endeavor too, and one well worth pursuing in order to continue serving others.