Guest Editorial: A Climb For Heroes

By Scottsdale Pinetop

Reaching the highest point in the world has long been an object of fascinations for many explorers, risk seekers and the above-average traveler. For some, it’s a bucket-list item. For others, it’s a physical and emotional challenge worth taking. But for some, it serves a higher purpose.

Photo by Tom Shannon/ AZ Department of Public Safety

And that was exactly the case for Scottsdale Fire Chief Tom Shannon and his team this past month. Known as “Peck’s Trek” – in honor of fallen Goodyear firefighter Austin Peck – the nine-day 80-mile hike up and down Mount Everest served as a memorial to honor our fallen Arizona heroes.

“It was our honor to bring the prayers and memories of fallen law enforcement colleagues to the top of the world,” said Chief Shannon. The trek originally was set to honor 11-year firefighter Austin Peck who died in 2019 from a rare form of cancer and long-time friend of Scottsdale’s firefighters David Grefka who also passed from cancer shortly after Peck. But it soon became something more.

One of the more emotional moments of the trek came at the top of Mount Kala Patthar as the team tied hundreds of prayer flags from families of fallen firefighters, law enforcement and other first responders in Arizona that have been gathered over the past two years. Their names and memories now fly high at the top of the world as a tribute to their service.

Making the moment even more sentimental, the same day Chief Shannon and his team reached Kala Patthar, Governor Ducey signed into law SB 1451 which sought to ensure health benefits for Arizona’s firefighters by closing loopholes insurance companies had to deny coverage and compensation for diseases resulting directly from the job. A huge win when it comes to protecting those who fight to protect us.

As the first explorer to reach the summit of Mount Everest Edmund Hillary once said, “It’s not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.” Congratulations to Chief Shannon and his companions who braved the trek to the summit in honor of our everyday heroes. An incredible accomplishment in more ways than one.