The Paradox community is deeply saddened by the news that friend, climber, and veteran, Dan Sidles, took his own life earlier this month.
A Sergeant in the US Marine Corp, Dan first joined Paradox Sports in 2013 and had an immediate impact on many members of our community, including our Executive Director at the time, Timmy O’Neill. Timmy asked Dan to join Paradox Ice in Ouray 2014 as a volunteer and be the guest speaker at our annual “Got Stump” fundraiser. As Dan spoke, his vulnerability, honesty and bravery were revealed, giving the audience a rare glimpse into the real struggle of a combat veteran fighting to survive long after returning to civilian life.
Dan Sidles was originally from Emmetsburg, Iowa. Following a year of community college, he followed his older brother into the Marines. Shortly before the September 11, 2001 attacks, Dan was sent to boot camp, where he graduated as the Platoon Honorman, and then he continued to the School of Infantry to become a machine gunner.
As a team member of the 2003 invasion of Southern Iraq, Dan pushed as far north as Nasiriyah. He returned home in the summer of 2003 and was redeployed to Fallujah in March of 2004 for Operation Vigilant Resolve, or the First Battle of Fallujah – some of the toughest fighting in the entire war. The best-selling book, No True Glory: A Frontline Account of the Battle for Fallujah, by Bing West, was written about Dan’s battalion.
During his deployment from 2003 to 2004, Dan Sidles’ suffered a TBI, PTSD, two herniated disks and shrapnel to the face, head, and torso. He was badly wounded twice while serving and earned a Purple Heart.
“My recovery has been a nightmare at times,” Dan said in an interview with World T.E.A.M. Sports in 2010. “The war is not fought over there, it’s fought when you get back. I really don’t have too many people in my life. I’ve burned a lot of bridges. I keep mainly to myself.”
In October 2010, Dan Sidles was part of a mountaineering expedition in Nepal led by blind adventurer Erik Weihenmayer (co-founder of NoBarriers). The 2012 documentary “High Ground” by emmy-winning director Michael Brown follows 11 combat veterans, including Dan, as they return from combat in Afghanistan and Iraq. These men and women, representing all four branches of the military, set out to climb the 20,075 peak of Lobuche East, just 8.7 miles from Mount Everest. The documentary revealed the true story of the soldiersʼ difficult road to recovery as they faced a return to civilian life, a challenge that Dan often spoke about with friends.
Before heading on the expedition in 2010 Dan said, “This opportunity to go to Nepal seems to be too good to be true. I have not climbed, but I am excited to learn and to get a rush out of life again. I am looking forward to this new experience.”
Dan’s passion for climbing grew after Nepal. While living in the Front Range, he loved climbing the Flatirons in Boulder, CO, sometimes soloing the First Flatiron multiple times in a day. Dan has since guided on Denali in Alaska and climbed two of the “Seven Summits” – Mt Elbrus in Russia and Aconcagua in Argentina.
The sport of climbing requires you to be present, in the moment and almost in a meditative state. As much as it gets your adrenaline going, it also helps you clear your mind and connect intimately with the natural world. Dan knew the value in that connection to the mountains.
“Dan did his best to find peace and fulfillment in the mountains, on glaciers, on rock or on ice,” High Ground (Michael Brown from Serac Films) commented on Facebook following the news of his death, “Everyone who met Dan was touched by him in some way and his smile and laughter were a joy to experience. We are grateful to have been able to share his story, and those who climbed with him will always hold him close to their hearts. Fair winds and following seas, Dan. May the trails ahead be clear and offer sure footing.”
We will miss you, friend.
If you or someone you know needs support, please reach out. The Veterans Crisis Line connects Veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring VA responders. Confidential help is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Veterans and their loved ones can anonymously:
Call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1
Send a text message to 838255