As army veteran Adam Rowland, 36, climbs to new heights in the “Climbing New Heights” rock wall gym in Martinsburg, he can’t see the challenges ahead… but he can feel them.
And with the help of his friend and fellow veteran Chris Price, he can hear them too. “I know Chris has my back, so I feel safe trying anything,” said Rowland.
Just 30 days into Rowland’s second deployment in 2011 as a team chief in Baghdad, he suffered a life-changing injury. He lost his sight, and his hope.
“I never thought that I would feel like an alpha male again. I thought those days were done, after I realized I’m never going to see again. I’m like…what am I going to do now? Who am I going to help now? I can’t even help myself,” said Rowland.
But back at home in the U.S., he met Price, an air force veteran, at a week-long “Out of Sight” clinic in Montana, an experience where visually-impaired veterans partner with other veterans, allowing them to pursue outdoor activities.
“I met Chris, and I started doing all of these awesome adventures. And like, things I’d never thought I would do, let alone be blind,” said Rowland.
The two spent the week getting to know each other. On top of the natural connection between fellow military veterans, the two say it seemed like they were destined to be friends.
“We’re born on the same day, we love to be adventurous, we love adrenaline, we love to feel like we’ve conquered something at the end of the day,” said Rowland.
Now years later, they consider themselves family. Rowland, who lives in Oklahoma, spent a week in West Virginia hanging out in Price’s rock wall gym, kayaking the Shenandoah, hiking and even climbing outdoors.
Price says each visit, he tries to think of new ways to help Rowland live a limitless life.
“I was like, man, what can this guy not do? Let’s try to find where that line is, and I’ve yet to find it,” said Price.
After 12 years in the air force, Price was honorably discharged after being diagnosed with PTSD. He says physical activity positively impacts him mentally. The duo says they’ve faced many challenges apart, but look forward to facing even more together.
“Having each other’s back, it goes the other way. He’s constantly looking out for me, and picking up on things that are kind of lost on me.” Price says.
“This is what we do. We go, and he sees. I don’t see, and we conquer,” said Rowland.
Because of their connection, Rowland is even considering moving from Oklahoma to West Virginia to be closer to Price.