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Former Operation Mend wounded vet continues tough trek to South Pole
Date: 12/11/2013
Contact: Cynthia Lee

Mark Wise, a former infantry platoon leader who was wounded in 2009 by an IED in Afghanistan and underwent reconstructive surgery with UCLA’s Operation Mend, is making his way in Antartica with teams of other wounded servicemen and women from four different countries to the South Pole.

Despite harsh conditions, including temperatures as low as -50 degrees, he said in a blog filed on Dec. 9 with CBS News.com that he is committed to completing the 208-mile journey in the Walking with the Wounded South Pole Challenge, led by Prince Harry of Britain. The grueling challenge aims to raise money and awareness for disabled veterans as they make the difficult transition to civilian life.

"Looking forward to the successful completion of the event, but we know we still have a long way to go," said Wise in his latest blog. "We still have another five days or so of skiing, but it will all be worth it in the end. We’re excited, so keep watching, and we’re ready to complete what we started."

Envisioned originally as a race among three teams, the organization running the event announced Dec. 7 that, because of the tough conditions they encountered, the teams will now camp and travel together, partly by vehicle, and walk the last 70 miles to the finish line instead of competing against one another. They expect to finish the walk sometime next week

On its website, expedition director Ed Parker said the teams were experiencing "a higher degree of stress" than expected. While the weather remains good, the terrain of ice and snow they are crossing is making the journey “very difficult, far harder than we anticipated.”

Wise is reporting on the journey for CBSNews.com. See his latest dispatch and those written by others, as well as videos, here.