It was during his time at UGA Matt was sent an email regarding a program called, Soldiers to Summits. Soldiers to Summits, uses the lessons of climbing mountains to teach Veterans how to overcome the barriers in their own lives. Being interested, Matt applied for the program and was selected for the Mount Cotopaxi, Ecuador expedition. During this year long program Matt had the honor to meet and become friends with Erik Weihenmayer.
Erik would later become a pivotal friend, mentor, and a huge support for Matt and his recovery. Erik inspired Matt but also challenged him to become a better version of himself while engaging with humanity. Matt’s daily commitment and life purpose is to like Erik Weihenmayer, elevate others. The complimentary articulation from Erik regarding Matt in Eriks Book, No Barriers, A Blind Man’s Journey to Kayak the Grand Canyon, are one of many catalysts which drive Matt to achieve many of the same results as one of his most instrumental heroes, Erik Weihenmayer.
In his forward to Eriks Book, No Barriers, A Blind Man's Journey to Kayak the Grand Canyon, Bob Woodruff wrote," The mark of a true hero is that they would never use that word to describe themselves. And Erik is no different. His many accomplishments have made his famous,but none of that matters to him."
I cannot relate to Erik in some aspects because I am not famous, not a hero, and don't have many accomplishments. The one way I can relate to Erik is that nothing in the past matters to me while elevating others not only matters to me, but also is my purpose, passion, calling, and commission.
Recently I was honored and privileged to be allowed, in front of national media cameras speak about the impact Erik had on my life. The intent of the Producers was to highlight Erik. I not only had several interactions I wanted to articulate which would coincide with the producers intent , but also, wanted to express my gratitude to Erik. I repeatedly tried to speak about numerous interactions with Erik which were gripping,pivotal, life changing, and instrumental in starting Freedom Fidos.
Whenever I mentioned my heartfelt thoughts Erik would quickly steer the conversation to either ask me a question or compliment me. I felt mixed emotions of disappointment not to be able to adequately convey the incredible person Erik is, combined with renewed inspiration as I witnessed Erik, totally unconcerned about himself, while being devoted to elevating others; which in the moment was Me. The cordial "battle" between Erik and myself to see who could compliment and elevate each other more was not only indicative of our relationship, but also, trans-formative,, refreshing,and afforded me the opportunity to create the firm resolve to integrate those wonderful characteristics Erik embodies into my own life.
Mother Teresa is one of my biggest role models. I strive to incorporate the mentalities and values she embodied into mine. Erik Weihenmayer is one of my living role models . If my epitaph states solely that Matt Burgess lived his life elevating others, then not only would I define that as success, I would also know I lived life to the fullest.