605 SOUTH COLLEGE AVENUE, SUITE 101, FORT COLLINS, CO 80524

No Barriers Podcast Episode 133: Rebuilding Community & Purpose with Cpt. Dave Inbody, US Army, Ret

about the episode

Our guest this week is retired US Army Captain Dave Inbody. When he returned home after wartime deployment in Afghanistan he was changed… physically; his body was smashed up and for the rest of his life he’d be an amputee, mentally.. the rehab was more difficult. His purpose in life, his mission… vanished. Where does one go from here? Dave has an impressive resume of medals; Purple Heart, Bronze Star, and many others, but now, 11 years later his accomplishments have transcended the battlefield. He rebuilt his community and re-established his mission and purpose. He says it was like climbing a mountain. However, while he was climbing his own mountain, he helped so many others climb theirs. How did he do it? Listen and find out.

David Inbody is the father of three children, two sons and a daughter, and has been married to his wife Tiffany for nineteen years.

David was medically retired from the U.S. Army in 2012, after eight years of service. He attained the rank of Captain. He enlisted in 2004 and attended officer candidate school and was commissioned in 2008. He was assigned to Bravo Co, 1st Squadron, 112th Cavalry Regt as a scout platoon leader. He later served as a plans officer and supply officer for the squadron before deploying as a member of an Agricultural Development Team in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan.

David was injured by an improvised explosive device while on a patrol on 15 July, 2010. As a result of injuries sustained from the blast he lost his right foot and sustained various other injuries. After two years of rehabilitation at the Center for the Intrepid in San Antonio, David medically retired and returned home to College Station, Tx.

He was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star Medals as well as the Combat Action Badge and multiple other awards and decorations.

Episode Transcript

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
Summits invariably are pretty inhospitable places. Yeah, we spend all this time chasing the summit and we're chasing the peak and we're chasing that thing that whatever that is. But then you get there and immediately, you're going back down off of that point. And so, there has to be something that's driving you more than just standing on top.

Erik Weihenmayer:
It's easy to talk about the successes. But what doesn't get talked about enough is the struggle. My name is Eric Weihenmayer. I've gotten the chance to ascend Mount Everest, to climb the tallest mountain in every continent, to kayak the Grand Canyon, and I happen to be blind. It's been a struggle to live what I call a No Barriers life, to define it, to push the parameters of what it means.

Erik Weihenmayer:
And part of the equation is diving into the learning process and trying to illuminate the universal elements that exist along the way. And that unexplored terrain between those dark places we find ourselves in in the summit exists a map. That map, that way forward is what we call No Barriers.

Didrik Johnck:
Didrik Johnck here, No Barriers Podcast Producer. Our guest this week is retired US Army Captain Dave Inbody. When he returned home after wartime deployment in Afghanistan, he was changed. Physically, his body was smashed up. And for the rest of his life, he'd be an amputee. Mentally, the rehab was more difficult. His purpose in life, his mission vanished.

Didrik Johnck:
Where does one go from here? Dave has an impressive resume of medals, Purple Heart, Bronze Star and many others. But now 11 years later, his accomplishments have transcended the battlefield. He rebuilt his community and established his mission and purpose again. He says it was like climbing a mountain. But get this, while he was climbing his own mountain, he helped so many others climb theirs. How did he do it? Listen and find out.

Dave Shurna:
Well, welcome everybody to today's No Barriers Podcast. I'm really excited to talk with our guest, Dave Inbody. Jeff, you've gotten to know Dave over the years through some of our No Barriers programming. When did you first meet Dave?

Jeff Evans:
Are you talking about the legend? Are you referring to the legend himself? That's who you're ... Oh, you're talking about Inbody? Yeah. Yes, Dave Inbody. I think like so many people, you meet Inbody in the first encounter with him is always like, "This is a formidable man right here. This is a dude that you want to get to know and meet."

Jeff Evans:
I'm sure that he's been told us a million times, but he's the teddy bear in disguise. Because within a few minutes of hanging out with him, you realize that he just exudes love and compassion. I'm sure his family would agree with all that, too.

Dave Shurna:
Every day, I'm sure.

Jeff Evans:
Yeah, every day, just exudes love and compassion. Tiffany's probably like, "Whatever, bro." And so, to your question, Dave, I mean, just like so many of us, I met Dave through one of our events that we did. But then, Dave and I became good buddies and went further. And that's when I got to meet his wife. And the two of them joined me on an expedition to Africa. And we stood on top of the highest mountain in the continent together.

Jeff Evans:
So welcome, Dave. It's good to have you, man. It's good to see you. And you look beautiful and handsome and all those things all put together?

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
Well, I don't know about all of that, other than the fact that we've walked some miles on some trails.

Jeff Evans:
We've definitely shared up some trails.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
And we've definitely stoop on top of a mountain in Africa. The rest of that, I don't know. We'll see.

Jeff Evans:
Well, we appreciate you being here because I think that you embody, and I'll be here, you embody all of the traits and characteristics that I think an initial No Barriers participant which then segued and grew into a No Barriers leader ambassador. Really truly, you exemplify that. You live it every day. So, I can really think of nobody that really has that total picture as formative as you do.

Jeff Evans:
So, just for our listeners and I'm sure there's a handful of folks who know you, have heard of you, have seen you. But if you don't mind backing us up just a little bit. Actually, I'm just trying to think ... I don't even know the origin story to be honest with you of how you came into the No Barriers fold. So, if you will, please, share with us ... What was your introduction?

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
Introduction to No Barriers was ... Well, I back up a little bit further than that. I was a United States Army, deployed to Afghanistan. I was involved in an IED explosion in 2010. Result of that explosion was the loss of my right foot, did all my rehab and then checked out of the Army in 2012, went home to be a stay-at-home dad and slowly descended into a pretty dark place. I was not happy.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
As a lot of veterans deal with, a lot of my thought of who I was was wrapped up in being in the army and being that person. And then, putting together who I was as far as a father and a husband, being an amputee now and not able to do the things that I always wanted to do and thinking ... Anyways, that all spiraled downhill.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
And then, a contact through a friend of mine who was the rec therapist that I work with, and I believe it was one of her undergrads that had worked with her like on an internship or something had come to work for No Barriers or come to be connected with No Barriers in some way.

Jeff Evans:
And you're in Texas at the time which is where you are now.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
I'm down in Texas. And she shoots out on Facebook, "Hey, anybody who's worked with me in the past, this organization's leading these backpacking trips for veterans. And if you're interested in that, you should drop a line." And I thought about it. I saw it. And I used to enjoy backpacking. I grew up backpacking and being out outside was something I enjoyed. But it was not something that I had thought about going back into that world.

Jeff Evans:
Did it transform from an enjoyable like cruisy backpacking as a kid to then you joined the service and then you had to do these 70-pound 30-mile rucks where you're just suffering and then all of a sudden, it was like, "Oh, this ain't that much fun anymore?"

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
There's no doubt, yeah. The military army backpacking is a very different experience than what we do for fun, for sure.

Jeff Evans:
Are you like, "Oh, whatever, I'll just go do it. I'll go check this thing out."

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
Well, I showed it to my wife. I said, "Hey, I'm thinking about applying for this." And I sent it to her in an email, the link in an email. And she came home and said, "Well, if you don't apply, I'm applying for you."

Dave Shurna:
Nice.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
"You have to go on this trip."

Jeff Evans:
Dave, what was your physical capability at that point in your recovery process?

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
I could walk around. I was doing pretty good, but I was overweight and largely a couch potato. And that was ... Jeff can attest to that that first ... After I was selected on the team, that first trip we went on was in my mind ... I mean, it was a successful trip but in my mind, it was a total disaster. It was the first time that I had something in front of me that I didn't accomplish. I won't say that ...

Jeff Evans:
What do you mean you didn't accomplish it?

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
I didn't stand on top of the peak. We went out there to climb up St. Mary's Glacier and stand on top of James Peak. And I was almost basically there. I was within view practically.

Jeff Evans:
Well, I wouldn't have said anything about, I'd forgotten so you reminded me just now. I would have put you on top. In my mind, you were right on top with me.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
Anyways, but in my mind, I wasn't. I wasn't in the [inaudible 00:08:55] at the top. I wasn't there. I wasn't where I ... And putting a pack on, especially coming from the infantry world, putting a pack on and walking is something that I did. I mean, that was core to who I was.

Jeff Evans:
But were there some prosthetic issues at that time? Did you have any prosthetics dialed in? I can't remember whether that was the case.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
It wasn't the prosthetic, it was just moving through the snow with the prosthetic and I was learning how to do that for the first time. And then, my lack of physical fitness over all of that combined together to my legs were cramping up, and pushing through is just not something that ... We still had to turn around and get back down off the mountain and get back down to camp.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
So, anyways, I came home pretty mad after that trip. I don't know if I let on during the trip how mad I was.

Jeff Evans:
No, I don't remember you being mad. Once again, I remember you being a fun-loving, happy dude. I remember disappointment. I remember disappointment, but also what I sensed in you was a resignation of like, "All right, here we go. I'm all in."

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
When Tiffany talks about this and it's always good to hear her perspective. And I've learned to listen to her perspective because she sees things differently than I do.

Jeff Evans:
I don't know how long it took you to start listening to your life.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
Way too long. Way, way too long. And she will probably tell you that I don't listen enough still. But no, she said I came home angry in a good way and determined to shed some of the weight and get the legs and lungs back in the shape they needed to be to come back into the mountains and be successful in the mountains.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
And living down here in flatland Texas, what it is essentially sea level, dealing with the altitude, going back to altitude, there's really only one way to do that successfully. And that's to put the time in down here to be in the best cardiovascular shape you can be in.

Jeff Evans:
That trip, didn't we go do a second training run? And that was like we did a multiple like Belford, Missouri, I'm trying to remember what we did.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
No, we went over to ... We did do a second trip and we went over to the Collegiate Peaks.

Jeff Evans:
Yeah.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
You remember that crazy thunder hailstorm up above treeline?

Jeff Evans:
Oh boy, yeah. No. I mean, because I was running in that trip. And there was probably a 30-minute period where I'm like, "Oh, this is going to be headline news because we're all going to get smoked on top of this ridge from some massive." I was a little bit spooked that day. But in retrospect, how awesome was it, right?

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
Well, yeah. I mean, that's that type two fun, right?

Jeff Evans:
Yeah, it's type two fun.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
I think we've pushed it right to the edge of Type 3 fun. It could have been over.

Jeff Evans:
Yeah. And then, we would have had a different story to tell. But fortunately, we didn't all become bacon. And we went up over that pass. And so, tell us about I guess the progression from James Peak from St. Mary's to that. And then ultimately, what would be the next part of the journey for you? As far as your training and more ... I guess, more importantly, just your mental commitment that you made to yourself, to your family, to all the pieces that go into you.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
Yeah, that's really what it was. It was a beginning of a transition for me out of just making it through every day to having plans and having goals. And knowing that when I came back to that ... Because the dates for that second training were set and I knew I had a finite number of days to get back and get in the gym and get working out. And I got with a buddy who lifted a lot and worked out a lot and I got back in the gym.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
And I got back to figure out a way to do squats again with a lower limb prosthetic which is not impossible but definitely took some practice and some work and some technique. And I got back to doing squats again which is something I've never thought I'd do again. I'm doing deadlifts again. And then just that determination that I wasn't ever going to have that feeling of I had let myself down.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
I've definitely had situations where things are out of my control. I had a backpacking trip with No Barriers where I broke a prosthetic and had to end the trip early because the prosthetic broke. Well, that wasn't me. That was the prosthetic broke. But I wasn't going to have me be the reason that I couldn't. And then I just kept working out through the ... The Collegiate Peak's trip went really well for me. I felt strong all the way through it. I kept working out.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
And then we capped that season off with a trip to Whitney which is still one of the epic backpacking trips that I've been on expeditions. That was tops in my mind.

Dave Shurna:
Dave, it sounds like this just really lit a fire under you to get back into the ring of life. And I'm curious because you now work with us as an expedition leader. And also you work with Project Healing Waters. As I think about people who come through our programs at No Barriers, there's something about the point they are in life plus the magic of the experience.

Dave Shurna:
It's not just that we do extraordinary experiences. It's also about where that person is in their life and what they're ready for and what they're seeking. Can you talk about, from your experience, whether at No Barriers or in your current work at Healing Waters, what that point is that a person gets to where this kind of experience makes them right been ready for transformation?

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
That's a good point. I think, especially with veterans, what we bring to the table is a challenge, a physical challenge and then developing community. And I think that once somebody has experienced that, that's part of who they are being challenged and being part of a tightknit community. I think once you offer that back to them, they run thirstily at it.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
And so, I think with veterans, it's pretty easy for them to jump right back into that role of, "Oh, this is familiar and we're challenging." So, I'm not sure that it's necessarily. But definitely, people have to be in the position where they want to grow, they want to change where they're at. And oftentimes, that comes post some sort of trauma and then a recognition that they want to change trajectory.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
And I think that the people who are usually attracted to our programs are looking for a change in trajectory of their life, whether it was like me wanting to get off the couch or it's wanting to just get out and meet people again, develop community. Or I mean, there are some people that just come on our trips because they're just want to have an awesome backpacking trip in the mountains and be away because they don't have an opportunity to get out and do something like that.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
And I think that in and of itself has value. I think we offer ... One of the core things of these trips and I've spent a lot of time puzzling on this is we disconnect from "regular society" and leave the cell phones. We disconnect from the social media and all the stress that that brings. And we go out and we start living ... To use an Aldo Leopold quote, "We start living on sun time and we wake up when the sun comes up and we generally go to sleep when the sun goes down unless we're sitting around the campfire a little while."

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
And life becomes about providing your basic necessities. It starts with putting up a tent and cooking breakfast and purifying water, and then walking down a trail. And we really simplify things for people. And I think when they ... Just doing that, just completely removing the whole rest of the world and simplifying your life down to basic necessities for four or five days allows people to reset their brains in not a brain doc or anything like that or a psychologist or anything like that, but that seems to be a big step for people is just having that opportunity.

Jeff Evans:
Amen. Dave, you mentioned out of the gate and I know this about your character. But you wanted to change. You were seeking it out. And that's how you found No Barriers. I don't think everybody's wired that way. Or maybe they are but maybe they haven't found it. They haven't found the mojo. In your walk, since you have made that commitment and it alters your trajectory fair bit, have you run into some fellow veterans that you knew just from talking to them or hearing from them that they needed that ass-kicking.

Jeff Evans:
They need to shift a pivot away to something else but they didn't have necessarily, whether it's the resources or the networking or whatever or probably more likely is the mojo to be able to say, "I need to alter my course right now. Things are toxic right now in my life." Have you run into those people in your journey since you've done it? And if so, how do you reach them in a way that's endearing and nurturing?

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
I have, of course. We've even had some people come through our course. Course, I don't want to say it is. On one of our trips and be involved with our program and then have gone back and slipped back into those same routines. Because I tell everybody, "I don't have a magic wand. I wish I did. I wish I could sprinkle magic pixie dust on everybody. And when they went home from our trips, everything was perfect again."

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
But that's not how the world works. We constantly have things that we're running into. And we have to constantly overcome those and deal with those challenges. So yeah, for sure, there's people out there like that. And whether they don't recognize that they need to change their direction or they recognize it but then slip back in, I think the biggest challenge is allowing them to see who they can be that's different from where they are.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
And I'll use an Erik from his ... It's not in his recent book. Anyways, he talks about climbers versus campers. And I think all of our ... I think, especially when you talk about the veteran community, all of our veterans are ... We're at one time climbers and for whatever reason got derailed and became campers and just need to have that fire lit to get back to being a climber, being back to reach in for those out-of-reach places.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
And that can be hard to reignite that fire with somebody. And it might take years to connect with somebody and say, "Hey." Because you don't want to break down a relationship with someone, you don't want to be a jerk, right?

Jeff Evans:
No, and that's a slippery slope. You've seen it a lot. I've seen it a lot. But there's some people who maybe even make the commitment to come on a trip or an expedition say like ... Maybe it's the reason what you mentioned earlier like, "I just want to go on a backpacking trip." And they have this life back home that's not fulfilling, satisfying and then they come on the trip and then they show up when they're on the trip. We've seen it.

Jeff Evans:
And so, I think the challenge as a friend, as an ally, as a colleague, whatever, even when you're on a trip or walking through life is how do you access that person without being derogatory towards them, with being nurturing. And I think that takes a surgical skill to be able to reach a person. And I feel like you do that, you do that because you got street cred, you do that because you got the personality and the charisma. But you also have seen it. You understand it.

Jeff Evans:
And I'd really like to hear more from you. I've seen you do it, but I'd love for everybody else to see how you get in there on an organic level with somebody.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
Coming from the perspective of, "Hey, I've been in a dark place. I've been through these things. And this helped me." I mean, just that in and of itself brings credibility for sure. But more I think importantly, all that gives you is that first five minutes, though. That gives you the initial, "Okay, maybe I'll listen to you. After that, you better be bringing some real stuff," or the BS meter goes off and they start looking somewhere else.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
I think the biggest thing is empathy and recognizing that people are coming from all sorts of different places with all sorts of different challenges. And then one of the big things I talk about to people all the time is I'm climbing my mountain and you can't climb my mountain. And you can't judge how hard it is for me to climb my mountain. You're on your own mountain and you have to climb your mountain. And I can't judge how hard it is for you to climb your mountain.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
I can talk about some things that have helped me climb my mountain. And hopefully, those will be tools that then you can use to climb your mountain. But I'm not going to sit here and say, "Oh, because I'm an amputee, it's so much harder for me to do this or do that," because that's BS. I've told people all the time and I'll say it forever that the amputee and recovering from the amputation and getting back was the far easier recovery than the mental recovery that came along with it.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
The physical recovery is ... I mean, that's science. There's amazing physical therapists out there. They'll tell you exactly what exercises to do and exactly how to exercise your body as long. As you make that mental commitment to do it, you'll boom, you're going to be there. When I was in Brooke Army Medical Center, I had a physical therapist that did exactly that. I didn't have a choice. I was still in the army. I was taking a direct order to follow those physical therapy instructions.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
And so, I didn't have a choice. But getting that mental therapy, getting that mental side back, that's a lot harder. And being able to tell people that story I think brings a lot of people to the table, but then just being honest with people and being open with people. And even if it's saying, "Hey, I can't understand what you're going through right now. This doesn't compute with any of my experiences. I didn't have this experience."

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
Unfortunately a handful, actually more than a handful, a lot of the women that have come on our trip are overcoming some sort of sexual trauma from their veterans' experience. And that's not something I can identify with. It's not something I ever experienced. But I can come to them with empathy. And I can come to them with an open mind. And be willing to listen to them, share their experiences, and justify their anger and their frustration and whatever those barriers are from that experience.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
So, just being a good listener and being willing to empathize with people I think goes a long, long ways.

Jeff Evans:
Well said, man.

Dave Shurna:
Yeah, it was really well said. One of the things that you mentioned that these programs can do is to ignite that fire, but there can also be people who get back and feel a sense of, "Well, my fire was ignited and now, I'm back home again and everything's the same." What are the things that programs can do to help people at that point?

Dave Shurna:
Because one of the critiques of things like even what No Barriers does is this one-and-done you go out, you have this great experience, you all connect, and then you just send them back. And then you give them a chance to fall off that cliff again. So, talk a little bit what organizations can do to support that process.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
Well, the post-trip doldrums is a thing that even I feel after my trips. I had two great trips this summer and had a great leadership team I work with, two great groups of veterans, had an awesome time, came back home from that. And yeah, I was feeling that little bit of downness, that little bit of, "I got to throw something." And for me personally, I have to throw another challenge in front of myself. I have to find another thing to do, to focus on to get myself out of that. But that's taken me time to learn to get there.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
So, I think one of the big things is focusing on building community on the trip. And so hopefully then, there's connections between those folks so that when they do go home, they have somebody to reach out to and we talk about that a lot on our trips is building ... We use the term Rope Team. And being really exclusive of who's on your Rope Team. I think we get wrapped up in social media with hundreds of followers and friends on whatever page and thinking that our connections are vast.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
And in reality, what we need is a small group of people that we can really rely on. I mean, a real Rope Team is going to be more than three to five people. I mean, that's just practically when you're moving on a glacier, if you get a Rope Team of more than five people, it just doesn't work. It's two inch for me, it's two ... There's always somebody getting caught in the middle and it just doesn't work.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
So I like to use that analogy a lot for people of, "Hey, who's that three to five people that you're going to ... hold you tight." And so I think building that community and then having ... And it doesn't necessarily have to be the people that were on the trip with us, usually one or two we'll make connections. But then also when you get home and really winnow down that giant friends list down to those small network of folks that you can say, "Hey, man, I'm just in a bum place right now. And I need to talk to somebody," or, "I need to go for a bike ride or a walk or have a cup of coffee or whatever."

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
So I think that building community is a big part in maintaining that connectivity. One of the things that we do sometimes more successfully than others is we try to get people connected with stuff in their community, stuff that they're fired up about so that when they go home, they do have something to put in front of themselves. And we try to get people to write themselves a goal of some sort and something that they're excited about, something that they're going to get involved with and make a pledge to go get involved and X thing when I get home.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
And that might be something super altruistic like being involved in a veteran's nonprofit or helping with hunger in my local community. But it also might be, "I'm going to get involved in a rock-climbing gym because I really enjoyed this rock climbing and I want to do more rock climbing and make a connection with that community." And so, it doesn't have to be ... It can be a very personal thing for who you're involved with. And that I think gets people connected back in their communities and it gets them something to do, but also another way to connect to more people.

Jeff Evans:
Dave, that Mount Whitney trip was kind of magic in a bottle. I mean, I think we always referenced that one as being sort of the ... It was almost like the perfect trip in so many different ways. I mean, everything about that trip was really magic.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
Yeah.

Jeff Evans:
And then to Dave's point, we came home. And all of us, all of us felt this drop-off. In that trip, not only was it the quintessential landmark trip for us as far as just everything going, it also was the trip that reminded us of the drop-off that happens on the backside. And I think that's where the phase three stuff really started to get developed was from that because we saw this.

Jeff Evans:
We were like, "Hey, man, brother, sisters. Wooh, that was amazing. Whoo." And then we got home and then boom. And then we started to get feedback like, "Hey, I'm still here. I'm still here and I'm back in the place that I started. And I need that love." And honestly, I think that's where a lot of what our curriculum has looked like over the years, really came from that. And if I distill down what you said, it's community, it's compassion, and it's also reestablishing purpose.

Jeff Evans:
It's making sure because I know you are a purpose-driven dude. And you come down from Everest. You come down from any big objective and you have this empty feeling of, "I have worked so hard for this one thing and then I did it. And then here I am."

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
Yeah.

Jeff Evans:
And it can be ... To be that hamster on a wheel and just goal, goal, goal, goal can be exhausting but it also can be life-sustaining, right?

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
For sure.

Jeff Evans:
Yeah. And I think you do that.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
Summits invariably are pretty inhospitable places, right?

Jeff Evans:
Yes, sir.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
I know you've stood on top of the tallest one on Earth. And you get to stand up there for a few minutes. And then you turn around and go back down because your body is literally dying. I got a good friend that guides up on Denali now. And when he gets a group of clients up the top of Denali, it's long enough to take photos and then he's cracking the whip and turning people around and sending them back down.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
So yeah, we spend all this time chasing the summit and we're chasing the peak, and we're chasing that thing, whatever that is. But then you get there and immediately, you're going back down off of that point. And so, there has to be something that's driving you more than just standing on top of the summit. That has to be the process. It doesn't always ... Getting to that point is not easy as well. I don't want to make it seem like it's just a switch that you flip.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
When I came back off of Whitney, I was feeling that. At that point, all I recognized was when I was training for Whitney, I was in a good place in my life, things were trending in the right direction. And so my thought process, "Well, I need to pick another mountain. I need to put another big mountain in front of me." And that's where Kilimanjaro came from and heading to Africa was this, "Hey, that's another big mountain. Let's put another big mountain in front of me and keep training there."

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
And then after that, things started shifting more. I got involved in No Barriers more. And I grew more to look at thinking about the process and thinking about setting goals and challenges and things like that. But fundamentally in the origins of it, getting myself out of that initial doldrums was, "I just need to go walk up another mountain."

Dave Shurna:
Part of it, too, man is just having the hindsight to have the foresight. It's like, "I know how this has happened in the past." So, now as a leader, you can get on day five of a six-day trip and be like, "Okay, guys and gals, check it out. We're having a great time. This is awesome, man. Everything's going great. But by the way, here about a week, it's kind of suck."

Dave Shurna:
And making sure everybody's aware. And so saying, "Let's prepare ourselves for what this is going to look like when we return home." And so you've been through that. You've walked that path. You know how to manage it. And just like with any problem, the first part is acknowledging it.

Dave Shurna:
So I think just having that knowledge to be able to take people and not be crushing like, "Hey, man, I was so high, you just brought me down. You're telling me when I get back home, I'm going to be playing Call of Duty and sucking on a whiskey bottle again? Shit." "Yeah, okay. Well, if you know that now, let's prepare and put the resources in place so that you can maintain this momentum, this trajectory."

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
Again, we keep using the mountains because that's kind of some of the world we live in and that's where our relationship was connected. But I've talked to people who've gone back to college after their service. And a semester, they build these relationships with these classmates and they have these big final exams that they're striving for. And that's their goal and they're focused on that. And then boom, the finals are over. And they're like most of us would think, "Oh, relief, these finals are over."

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
But then the finals are over and then the classes broken up. And that community that you've built in that little study group is gone. And then all of a sudden, it's the summer and what am I doing next? And where am I going next? And then, you start seeing these rollercoasters of emotion and connectivity. So, it can manifest itself in lots of different ways. It doesn't have to just be ...

Dave Shurna:
Yeah. And I think, Dave, when I think about our veteran populations that we serve, and this may be a characteristic in general or at least broadly for veterans, the idea that they're very mission-driven, having a clear mission in place that may be really freaking difficult to get to is a part of what they enjoyed in the military. It's part of what they need in their life again.

Dave Shurna:
It's like whether that mission is college or another mountain or write your first book or having the clear mission energizes people. And once the mission is over, you got to figure out a way, "Okay, well, what's my next mission?"

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
No doubt about it. Having that purpose, and then those specific mission or those specific goals that help drive you towards that, it's hard. And that's not magic. We're not the first ones to talk about that. That comes out in lots of different programming and we just I think delivered in a little different way.

Jeff Evans:
You got to do the cake and icing with that because you set your mission out, and then you included your best friend, your wife on your next mission. And you got to share that with her. And I think that is sort of the ultimate expression of that is when you've got this thing that has provided you traction, and then you start bringing in your allies. And then you get to share that experience with them. And that's when it really becomes full circle.

Jeff Evans:
So yeah, you and Tiffany got to have that whole, not just the Kilimanjaro experience, but the lead up to it and then the reflection after the fact, too. So I mean, it's a beautiful thing to watch you to go through that process together. And other than the summit, I have many memories of being with you. But the one that really stands out with me is I spent ... Coming down from Lava Tower, I spent that whole afternoon with the two of you walking from Lava Tower, it was down.

Jeff Evans:
Remember, it's pretty desolate dusty up there and it's pretty hard. You get up there. I don't know what it is, like 16,000 feet, and then you come down. I remember walking down into that almost little jungly setting and just seeing the two of you interact, and the love that you have for each other and how she was nurturing you. And you seemed so grateful that she could be a part of this process. I have very, very vivid, vivid fond memories.

Jeff Evans:
Your beard was a little bit more red then and a little bit less gray. I ain't going to lie.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
Yeah.

Jeff Evans:
And I didn't have much gray then either. That was a few years ago.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
That was a few years ago. But yeah, that was an amazing experience. And now, I'm raising some kids. I've got a couple of teenagers and a 10-year-old and they're going on backpacking trips. And I'm getting to do some of that backpacking stuff with my kids and they get excited about being out in the backcountry and carrying everything that you need on your back from camp and when ...

Jeff Evans:
Fun times with the kids.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
Being able to transition and then make that full circle is important. It's definitely a big part of who I am now and that mission, part of my mission. We started doing the goal programs. I set a goal for myself on my first trip that I led of the simple goal was cook a family meal once a week that we're all going to sit around the dinner table. That was my goal for myself and it's grown from there.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
But now, I've got a daughter that loves to cook and a son that loves to backpack with me, and another one that's excited and frustrated that he can't carry as much as he wants to carry because he's only 10 now, and a daughter that's ... she loves to backpack, too. So, it's been a pretty awesome cycle to include them on that journey.

Jeff Evans:
Yeah, I love that full circle, bringing it back to the family and sharing that with them.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
Yeah. And it's just more of the get involved, build a community and be outside. And that is at its core what I think a lot of people need whether they're veterans overcoming stuff or they're ... I think that applies to lots of folks. I think a lot of people that are struggling ... Especially now, I think I find people are struggling post-COVID or really not post-COVID yet, but we keep using that term.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
People are struggling for community. And people are struggling for involvement. And people are struggling for fellowship. And I think finding whatever that thing is that you're connected about, and then being outside and with that community of individuals builds that camaraderie, that fellowship, gives you something to work towards. And I think a lot of us need that right now.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
And that can look like fly fishing, or that can look like hiking, or that can look like riding a bike, mountain biking with people. There's lots and lots of ways. I've got a friend that she and her friends do yoga hikes. They are up there in Colorado and she and her girlfriends get together once a week. And they go out and they hike out and do yoga out in the mountains and then hike back in. And that's their connection and that's their thing.

Jeff Evans:
Yeah, I love that you pointed out earlier in our conversation that obviously, No Barriers has a whole curriculum that we lead people through before and after and during the program, but a lot of it's pretty basic stuff. It's like spend five to seven days disconnecting, getting out in nature, surrounded by good people who have had possibly some shared experiences in life with you or that can at least relate to those experiences.

Jeff Evans:
There's a magic in just doing that. Whether you have the formal curriculum or not, there's just something really special about taking that time to just get away and disconnecting and being around other people who are committed to that act of disconnecting.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
No doubt about it. And early on on our veterans trips, that's really was the core of it. And I always talked about the let the magic of the mountains take over and let the mountains be the teacher. And we've progressed from that. And I think that definitely works for some folks. And that was good enough for a lot of folks.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
But then, as we've progressed through, we've found ways to deliver a little more curriculum and that I think reaches other folks in different ways. And so, we have a better chance of reaching more people on a trip. And so, I think that's where the development of the curriculum has come from is kind of why is this, why was this, because there was that definite magic that happened in the mountains, right, Jeff?

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
And that you keep going back to that Whitney trip. And I've spent a lot of time reviewing that trip in my mind of what was it about that. What was it that was so special? What was the magic in the bottle that we caught?

Jeff Evans:
It may have been those delicious fish that we caught in the creek that may have been part of it, filleted and marinated them.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
There is a fish caught.

Jeff Evans:
I mean, you're talking about catching magic. Just anecdotally, that could have had something to do with it. If you've reflected so much on that, what's the distillation of that? What was it that made that one so special?

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
Well, I think a lot of it ... Some of the things we've already talked about was that, A, we had the opportunity to come back together and really build a team. So, it was not just a one-time trip, it was multiple trips. And so, people really got to know each other. And as that happens, you can delve deeper and deeper into things that people are dealing with and they feel more comfortable with opening up and sharing.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
And I think especially on that third trip, although it definitely happens earlier on on our other trips or one week trips, but there was a lot of really deep stuff. And I'm not going to share anything specific from some folks. But there was a lot of really deep emotional experiences that were been able to be shared and people trusted that environment.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
And so building that world of trust amongst the people that are on that trip is really key. And so, that was definitely a lesson because we don't always have the ability to take people on three separate trips and especially keep the same crew together. That took a very unique set of circumstances and to allow that to happen. But we can still work at building that trust. Making people feel safe in a community so that they can share and open up about some of their anchors or barriers or whatever it is that's holding them, keeping them back.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
And then once people share, allowing them to just express that and deal with that and know that it's normal, it's okay. And almost always and we tell people this is the beginning of our trips, if you're hesitating to talk about something, there's a very good chance there's somebody else that's also hesitating to talk about something. It just takes that one person to feel safe enough to open up and then people start opening up.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
And then almost always, that starts the ball rolling. And sometimes it happens fast. And sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes there's people that on the very last night are finally comfortable enough to open up and really let people in and share. And some people are never there. They've got a lot further trip on their journey before they're able to share.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
But usually, some shared struggle, a challenge in front of people so that they feel like ... That brings the team together. They feel like they're overcoming something together that builds that esprit de corps that military talks about a lot, that shared struggle, and then trusting people just. We start with that outright at the beginning of this is a place where we're not going to judge. We're not going to question backgrounds. We're not going to question service. We're not going to question why you're here, you're all here. And we're going to be open to whatever you bring.

Jeff Evans:
And I'll tell you, man. This whole conversation is ... Hopefully, folks realize the metaphors that are baked into a lot of the experiences that we talked about, that we've had that clearly one of the reasons the theater of the mountains and the outdoors is just so poignant and perfect for things like this, for opportunities like this, because the life metaphors are endless. They're everywhere. Every time you look or you speak or something, you're talking about building trust on a seven-day trip or on a three-component trip, three-element trip.

Jeff Evans:
Yeah. I mean, but that's life, too. It's like how do you get into somebody and then connect with them to be able to bake out some of that trust between us? It can't just automatically walk in and say, "Trust me." That's bullshit. That doesn't work. Those are words. It does take time. But isn't that the case? Isn't that how we do it? Isn't the idea of establishing purpose after a goal just one of the biggest things you can do in life in general?

Jeff Evans:
And I think everything that you've encapsulated for us in this conversation and through your work and your life in general really does capture the essence of the metaphors that exist in these things that we do.

Dave Shurna:
And Dave, as we wrap up the conversation here, you are someone who's mission-driven and always thinking about the next goal. Do you have some next thing that you're aspiring towards this point whether it's a mountain or a family goal? Or what is that thing that you're aspiring towards right now?

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
I've got a couple. I've got a couple of goals out there. I've got a goal of getting No Barriers back into Nepal and getting us back onto a peak, whether that's Lobuche or something else back there in that valley. That's a goal of mine. So we've got to do some major ...

Jeff Evans:
I'll be your Sherpa, bro.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
Well, I won't go unless you're coming along, Jeff.

Jeff Evans:
Shake on it.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
Yeah. So that's definitely something I know I've talked with you a little bit about that, Dave. I think we need to get back over there. And personally, I've got a lot of goals with ... I'm working with my son's scout troop. And just bringing those scouts along and working with the youth and getting them outdoors. That's my week-to-week goal, not including the family. But working with the scouts is definitely a week-to-week goal for me. And that get ...

Jeff Evans:
Are you still cooking the dinner once a week or no?

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
Yeah, at least once a week, usually more. I got a goulash going for tonight.

Jeff Evans:
I've tasted some of your camp meals, Dave. And I have to say, you are a higher level camp cook than most. So, I imagine that translates over to the kitchen quite well.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
I enjoy cooking. It's something that I really take a lot of pleasure in and whether that's in the backcountry cooking over a camp stove or that's in the kitchen where I've got all the options and utensils available to me. I enjoy cooking a lot. And that actually ... For our trips, our veteran trips, when you show up and you start talking about some of the menu options, that brings people out. I think that's a worldwide thing.

Jeff Evans:
Yeah, breaking a bread.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
Yeah, breaking bread together, right?

Jeff Evans:
Yup.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
That's just core to who we are.

Jeff Evans:
Yeah, especially after a big hard day, too. There's nothing more especial about that. Hard, hard day, you're tired and you come together and you share a meal, that's where the trust starts to really galvanize.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
It does. You're exactly right. And that's why we always make it a point to involve as many people as possible in the preparation of that meal. We don't refer to ourselves as guides because you pay a guide to cook dinner for you. You pay a guy to set up a tent for you. You pay a guide, right?

Jeff Evans:
Yes, sir.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
That's what comes with paying guides. We're not guides because people we're bringing on our trips, we're going to have you help cook dinner. You're going to set your antenna. You're going to pack your own pack. And I'm going to teach you how to do that. I'm going to make sure you know how to do everything correctly. Back to breaking bread together and helping, "Hey, I'm going to support this team."

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
We've had people come on the trip and they're maybe not most physically strong but if they're in that kitchen every night helping to cook food, that's their way to give back to the team. Or they're carrying water every day, making sure we have plenty of water so people can fill their water and their bottles up.

Dave Shurna:
Hey, man, listen. I think all of us, many of us, some maybe more than others are, like we've mentioned, very purpose-driven. I'm absolutely purpose-driven. And so, I need another Dave Inbody purpose-driven moment. So, we've been talking about doing a family trip next summer. Hopefully, we can pull that off. But I think that people who listen to this, guarantee you we all know some veterans that either are in our fold or that could potentially be in our fold.

Dave Shurna:
And Dave Inbody, you're a Merlin, bro. You make things happen. You're an idea-maker. So, I say that so that the folks listening can keep their ear to the track with things that may be developed over the next year or so as we come out of the cave and start planning for future trips. So, hey, I volunteer.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
Thank you, Dave.

Dave Shurna:
I'm here.

Jeff Evans:
You volunteer, here we go.

Dave Shurna:
I'm here. I'm in. I'm in. Sign me up for any Inbody trip.

Jeff Evans:
Awesome.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
I'll plug our program because we haven't published our trips for next year yet. But usually, January, early February, so pay attention to all our socials for No Barriers. And if you've got a veteran in your life that needs a challenge, that needs a kick in the pants or a community to connect with, again, pay attention to our socials, the No Barrier stuff. It will be out there and we'll start publishing trips. Usually, late winter time is when we start taking names and ...

Dave Shurna:
Kicking ass.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
Get your name on the list.

Dave Shurna:
Yeah. And if you're not quite ready to make that commitment to a big trip, we've also been doing some surprisingly powerful at-home programs that are like a Mission in a Box at Home that are led by our expedition leaders, and give you a taste of that community, and give you a taste of what it's like to set the vision and the goals even without the mountain. And sometimes that can lead to some very similar transformations and even to a desire to then take that next step.

Dave Shurna:
So, check out those as well at nobarriersusa.org. And Dave, thank you so much for everything you've done for No Barriers and for this great conversation and kind of the wisdom you've shared with our listeners.

Jeff Evans:
Love you everybody.

Cpt. Dave Inbody:
Thanks, Jeff. Love you guys. Thanks to No Barrier for being a big part of my life.

Jeff Evans:
Be good to yourself. Be better to others.

Dave Shurna:
Always.

Didrik Johnck:
The production team behind this podcast includes Producer Didrik Johnck. That's me. Sound design, editing and mixing by Tyler Cottman. Marketing and graphics support from Stone Ward and web support by Jamlo. Special thanks to the Dan Ryan Band for our intro song guidance.

Didrik Johnck:
And thanks to all of you for listening. We know that you've got a lot of choices about how you can spend your time and we appreciate you spending it with us. If you enjoy this podcast, we encourage you to subscribe to it. Share it and give us a review. Show notes can be found at nobarrierspodcast.com. That's nobarrierspodcast.com. There's also a link to shoot me an email with any suggestions for the show or any ideas you've got it all. Thanks so much and have a great day.

do you like this episode?
share it!

Facebook
Twitter
WhatsApp
Telegram
Email

it's up to you

Whichever podcast platform you enjoy, we’re already there.

Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss a single episode of this free, educational and uplifting podcast.  

don't miss an episode

Stay up-to-date on new opportunities & community stories.

Get involved. Be forever changed.

Stay up-to-date on new opportunities & community stories.