Climbing Mountains

Author: Peggy Carvill-Ligouri

We all have mountains to climb, mine just happened to be in Tanzania, Africa. Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro challenged me and changed me in ways I never thought possible.

TAPS Survivors Hiking Mountains

I started with the sole purpose of honoring the memories of my two brothers, Mike and Frank. Mike died of colon cancer on September 23, 2003. Frank was killed in action in Sadr City, Iraq, on June 4, 2004. They loved travel, adventure and any and all outdoor activities. Climbing Kilimanjaro is exactly the kind of adventure the two of them would have loved.

I read the TAPS Expeditions announcement with excitement and a bit of trepidation. My hiking experience was limited; my trekking and high altitude experience was completely non-existent. I had never slept on the ground or in a tent. I was 56 years old and, I could afford to lose a few pounds. Going to Africa to climb a mountain was way outside my comfort zone. In fact, my comfort zone was at sea level, on a different continent on a different tectonic plate. We do crazy things to honor those ones we love, and to honor ourselves.

As with any TAPS event, the best part was meeting the incredible fellow TAPS surviving family members. The instant camaraderie was such a soothing, healing balm on the wound of loss. The ability to have someone completely understand the depth of what I was saying was so comforting. That alone was worth a trip to Africa.

Not only did I meet new friends in Africa, including our wonderful guides, Carole and Vern Tejas, but I also learned a lot about loss, survival, living, love and the choices we have the power to make. After losing my brothers, having numerous family health problems and many life altering issues in the span of 18 months, I was a little dead inside, maybe even a lot.

Existing and living are two different entities. Learning to live again, learning to find joy again, took me a while. Recognizing my new normal and making a life in that space were two distinctly different and difficult challenges. But taking steps, literally and figuratively, in the direction of honoring my brothers helped me to do both.

I trained long and hard for Kilimanjaro. Along the way, people wished me luck on my endeavor to reach the "Roof of Africa." I couldn’t promise I would summit, but I could promise that I would do my best.

It was during those many hours of training that I realized I liked being strong. I could do more than I ever thought before. I enjoyed the challenge. I enjoyed reaching goals. Without even realizing it, I started to live again - not just for my brothers, but for me too.

The first time I ever slept on the ground or in a tent was 9,900 feet up Mount Kilimanjaro. I was cold and miserable and having quite a pity party when I asked myself if this was my best. The answer was a resounding no. I could do better. Then I remembered the wise words of Carole Tejas, “Don't look at the whole mountain; just look at one section at a time and then ask yourself if you can take one more step. If the answer is yes, take that step.”

I answered yes to taking one more step on Mount Kilimanjaro. I answered yes to taking one more step to once again find joy and happiness in my life. I realized I could not change my situation, but I could change my response to that situation.

Do your best and take that step. Maybe, just maybe, being outside your comfort zone is not such a bad thing after all.

This year, I took another step and attended the Inner Warrior Wellness Weekend in Baltimore. I learned running techniques, the Galloway Method, zone training, heel strikes, running posture and hand and arm position. I had no idea - I always just went out and ran. I ran poorly, but I ran. Now, I’m trying to incorporate as many of the running techniques as possible into my training. My pace is improving. I no longer feel like I am being pounded into the ground.

Choosing a healthy lifestyle and challenging myself has brought me joy. With this new-found joy in living and my increased confidence in running, I signed up for the Army 10 Miler this fall. The farthest I will have ever run. Doing something outside of my comfort zone, especially with TAPS, is always a good thing. I’m pushing myself to live for my brothers and for myself.

In the words of the TAPS Inner Warrior, "Our lives will be our tribute." This is exactly how I have decided to live my life. I have a new normal. I can’t change that my brothers died, but I can change what I do with my loss.

Do your best, take that step, live your life and find your joy. You could climb mountains too.

By Peggy Carvill-Liguori: Peggy is retired Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician and graduate of New York Chiropractic College. She is the surviving sister of her older brother Staff Sgt. Frank T. Carvill and younger brother Mike Carvill. She strives to live up to the motto of the TAPS Inner Warrior, "Our lives will be our tribute, stronger every day."