No obstacle is too difficult to climb.
That message permeated throughout former U.S. Army soldier Steve Baskis’ speech at the Dothan Civic Center on Thursday morning.
Speaking to a group of soldiers and residents at the Wiregrass Chapter of the Association of the United States Army’s membership kickoff breakfast, Baskis detailed both the events that left him blind and his many adventures since that day.
Baskis, born into a military family, had always dreamed of serving his country.
He enlisted in January 2007 and, by the end of the year, found himself stationed in Iraq.
But in May 2008, his world changed forever.
“A roadside bomb went off beside our vehicle,” Baskis said. “I lost a good friend. It almost feels like a dream to this day.”
Baskis lost his vision in both eyes. He spent much of the next year battling depression on his road to recovery.
The Veterans Administration, along with family and friends, helped Baskis literally get back on his feet again.
“I’ve had a great support team around me,” Baskis said. “It’s amazing what our VA support team can do when you’re in the right place.”
Baskis began pushing himself physically, to the point that he competed in a half-Ironman competition and began climbing mountains, testing the limits of his disability.
“I was trying to find the will to survive,” he said.
Standing atop the peak of the third tallest volcano in Mexico, he experienced a thrill and sense of accomplishment that stuck with him.
In recent years, he’s also climbed Lobuche, a peak less than nine miles from the top of Mount Everest, as well as Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa.
He’s currently training to join the national Paralympics cycling team, setting a goal of reaching the 2016 Games.
“I really wanted to do something special in the Army, and I got cut short,” Baskis said. “I didn’t want to give that up, so it transferred over into climbing. The sense of doing something so hard, being disabled, it’s a great feeling of accomplishment.”
These days, Baskis retains a sharp sense of humor about his life.
“I like to joke that whether I’m climbing Kilimanjaro or a volcano, they all look like my apartment to me,” he said.
But he did want the soldiers and others in attendance to take away one lesson more than anything else.
“You can have vision even when you don’t have sight,” he said.