Operation Denali’s Marc Hoffmeister named “Adventurer of the Year”

From the desk of Jeremy Borden, USO Staff Writer:

Army Lieutenant Colonel Marc Hoffmeister says his whole experience with National Geographic has been one surprise after the other. But none was bigger than learning that he’d tied for first place as the organization’s Adventurer of the Year.

Hoffmeister, who was wounded in a roadside blast in Iraq in 2007, organized a group of wounded warriors to climb Mount McKinley, also known as Denali, the highest mountain peak in North America in June 2009.

Lieutenant Colonel Marc Hoffmeister summits Denali. DoD photo.

He said he was more than a little shocked to be named one of the magazine’s Adventurers of the Year. “I frankly was pretty surprised to even be ranked amongst them,” he said from his home in Eagle River, Alaska.

It also shocked him that readers honored him as their Readers’ Choice Adventurer of the Year on Thursday.

He credits his team — the accomplishment is a group one, he says — but can’t put his finger on what put his story above the rest. “I don’t know what singled us out at all,” he said.

Hoffmeister went up against accomplished adventurers, like the astronaut known as “the Hubble repairman,” and tied for first place in the readers’ choice contest with Albert Yu-Min Lin, who organized a treacherous expedition into Mongolia to search for the lost tomb of Genghis Khan.

As Hoffmeister and Lin pulled away from the pack in the competition’s last weeks, the soldier wondered what his chances were.

“It’s the modern age of technology. You ‘Google’ the competition,” Hoffmeister said.

When he found out about Lin’s University of California-San Diego connections, he joked he was worried that “[Lin’s] got the whole school at his disposal. Can’t you just [take students] to the computer lab every other day and vote?”

Despite what he considered steep odds, Hoffmeister organized and assembled his own social network. Army officials and even senators gravitated to his story, helping put the word out through e-mail chains, news stories and social media Web sites. Hoffmeister knew it was working when he started hearing from long lost friends.

But it was Hoffmeister’s story of four wounded warriors training for a year and spending a month summiting a treacherous peak that resonated around the country. When Hoffmeister was beginning his own recovery, he knew the mountain climb could change wounded warriors’ lives. But first, he had his own burdens to over come…Read the full blog post from “On the Frontlines” and see Army Lieutenant Colonel Marc Hoffmeister’s full story online at ON★PATROL, the magazine of the USO.