CUMMING, Ga. — Cumming Chapter 1030 of the Vietnam Veterans of America spent a little time on top of the world recently when West Forsyth High School graduate Harold Earls spoke at the group’s Feb. 2 meeting.
After graduating in 2011, Earls has lived a life of high adventure and has headed one of the U.S. military’s most prestigious and world renown units.
Soon after earning his commission at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, he led the first Army team to include a combat wounded amputee to climb to the summit of Mount Everest. The rigorous advance to the summit was completed without more than the usual adversity. However, on the way down, the team encountered a fierce storm with treacherous winds of 75 miles an hour, splitting up the members.
Earls and his Sherpa guide made it down in one piece, but two others on the team remained unaccounted for. Exhausted but safe, he contacted his father who told him something that he said he will never forget. His father said, “Son you need to go back up that mountain to find the missing team members or you need to die trying, because that’s what leaders do.”
As fate would have it, as soon as he started his re-ascent, he spotted the headlamps of the missing team members. Except for suffering from frostbite and being physically spent, everyone returned safely.
The former Airborne Ranger-Qualified captain told the veterans that serving as commander of the elite Guard Unit of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery was the honor of a lifetime. With 250,000 headstones of heroes and those buried at the Tomb of the Unknown, Earls said “It was the hills of Arlington that gave me a deeper appreciation for this country than I can ever explain. I feel humbled even talking about it.”
Earls and his wife Rachel authored a best-selling book, “A Higher Calling,” and have just moved to Roswell to make a home for their two boys with a third child on the way.
Cumming Chapter 1030 of the Vietnam Veterans of America meets at 7 p.m. the first Tuesday of each month at AA Driving Academy, 432 Canton Highway, Cumming. For more information, visit: vva1030-cumming.com.
— Patrick Fox