Imagine hiking one of the world’s tallest mountains for six or seven days, through jungle forests and sub-freezing temperatures. With each passing day, the oxygen levels get lower and lower, and the task becomes increasingly difficult. Along the way, several hikers can’t make the trip and have to turn back. Yet you complete the journey with just one leg.
That’s exactly what several wounded soldiers did over the summer.
Friday night, former BYU tight end and current Associate Athletic Director Chad Lewis spoke about his experience climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro with two other NFL stars and a small group of wounded soldiers. Lewis joined BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall and a dozen football players to salute and honor this country’s veterans in the Smith Fieldhouse.
Lewis presented a video of his journey, entitled “The Wounded Warrior Program,” and spoke about the memorable experience he had in Africa with those soldiers. At the end of his presentation, Lewis quoted one of the one-legged soldiers who completed the hike.
“Please don’t forget us,” Lewis said. “My leg getting blown off, that’s not the worst casualty of war. The worst casualty of war is to be forgotten. So when you go home, don’t forget us.”
Lewis likened the words of the soldier to the invitation Christ gives to us daily — to remember him and his sacrifice.
Senior offensive lineman Matt Reynolds was the first speaker of the night. He honored those in the Armed Forces and spoke of his personal experiences of never giving up, even when life seems difficult.
“Although life doesn’t start with a coin toss and doesn’t end with a big overtime victory … we do have opportunities to reflect and fix the fundamentals that we have done wrong, to correct ourselves, to get back on the strait and narrow path,” Reynolds said.
The second speaker, junior defensive lineman Romney Fuga, said he did not grow up at BYU, nor did he know much about its football program. Fuga shared an experience which helped him decide to come to BYU — the first time he met Mendenhall.
“Sometimes parents send their children to EFY, they find their testimony or they find God,” Fuga said. “But in [my] trip, I found Bronco Mendenhall. I remember he busted out the scriptures and I was like, ‘OK, who does that?’ I thought we were here to talk about football.”
Mendenhall was the final speaker of the program. He spoke about what it means to be a soldier and quoted a scripture in 2 Timothy in the Bible about what it means to be a soldier for Christ. He said the battle for right has been going since the war in heaven, and all people can be soldiers in the war for truth.
“There is another war going on, and that is a war for human rights, decency and the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Mendenhall said. “Any time that you make a bold statement of something you believe in, you become a target. And that can be a lonely place.”