Mike’s Journey: The Confidence to Face Barriers

  • Mike Page smiling after the 2014 Raytheon Colorado Expedition

The tree in the front yard.

For Mike Page, that tree’s limbs were just too high to be trimmed. For the decorated Vietnam veteran, this was a task too much, a reach too high. Mentally, he was defeated even before he scaled the ladder.

But the tree was also a metaphor for a larger barrier in Mike’s life — lack of confidence. After serving in the Special Forces in the Mekong Delta area of Vietnam, Mike came home to a country embroiled in anti-war and anti-veteran sentiments.

“One time I went to Chicago to interview for a job … and here was an anti-war Vietnam War march going on with thousands and thousands of people marching and that scared the living hell out of me,” he said. “Instead of going to my interview, I flew home because I was petrified.”

There were times when, without the comfort of his rifle on his shoulder, he couldn’t walk down the street near other people. Later, he would he diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, but at the time those were the “things that destroyed the confidence I had.”

Warriors. 2014. Raytheon Colorado expedition in Leadville.

Years later, the social worker who runs the PTSD group he attends encouraged him to apply for a No Barriers Warriors expedition sponsored by Raytheon in the Colorado mountains.

Even the application process gave the 69-year-old a spark, helping him increase his exercise regiment in case he was selected.

“I intensified it to the mental state I was in when I was Special Forces training,” he said. “Even though I was 69, I did it like I was 23.”

Mike was selected and joined the group on the same ground the 10th Mountain Division trained on — a fact that struck his as “heart-taking.” He didn’t know he was the only Vietnam Veteran on the expedition and despite the other veterans telling him he was an “inspiration,” Mike’s lack of confidence kept creeping in.

“I can’t do that,” it would tell him. But, he did it anyways.

“It got me to start to say, ‘Hey, I can do this,’” he said.

But just as Mike was starting to gain some confidence, he aggravated a calf muscle he had pulled training for the expedition. He was high on the side of a cliff and realized he had to find the strength from somewhere else.

“About the 75 foot level and the 100 foot level, I wanted to quit,” he said. “I said, ‘I just can’t do it.’ But the whole team of guys said, ‘No. We’re a team, you’re going to make it and we’re going to go forward.’ With their coaching and inspiration, I made it to the top.”

The next morning, Mike awoke and said a prayer. The team was set to climb a mountain. His calf was still sore.

“I said, ‘God, please don’t let me hold up my team. I don’t want to be a burden on them. So please, let the pain go away,’” he said. “I told the team I’m not going to hold them up — if I can’t make it to go on without me. They said, ‘No, we’re a team and we’re all going to make it.’ That was amazing. They just weren’t going to not let me not make it.”

Sure enough, Mike made it. The time he and the team spent at the Summit was incredibly moving, he said.

“It was really touching and it made me realize that we’re not in this world alone,” he said.2014 Raytheon Colorado Expedition at the Summit

When he came home, he stopped and looked at that tree differently. It wasn’t too tall any more.

“I stopped and I reflected back on my Rocky Mountain Expedition and I said, ‘OK, what do you have to do?’” he said. “I did it and I came back inside and I told my wife, ‘Guess what? Guess what that expedition did — it helped me cut those limbs down.”

But it was more than just that.

“No Barriers allowed me to associate with other veterans and I opened up to where I was able to express myself,” he said. “That was a barrier I had never overcome.”