Matt Moniz was 12 years old when he was named National Geographic’s 2010 Adventurer of the Year after summiting the highest peaks in all 50 states, a feat he accomplished in only 43 days.
Eight years later, the 20-year-old mountaineer reached the summit of the Earth’s highest peak — the 29,029-foot mammoth, Mount Everest. And thanks to a chance meeting with one of the Navy’s top officers in December 2016, Moniz completed the journey with a special token in tow.
While taking in the views of the Himalayas from the Everest summit on May 20, Moniz and other team members unfurled the Navy’s 7th Fleet flag.
“I was more than happy to bring the flag with me for the climb,” Moniz said in a Navy release. “I’ve always had an appreciation and interest in the military, and I haven’t completely ruled it out for myself yet.”
It was during a ceremony to mark the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor that Moniz met now-7th Fleet commander, Vice Adm. Phil Sawyer.
“That’s when I shared my Everest expedition plans,” Moniz told Navy Times.
Inspired by the mountaineer’s ambitions, Sawyer gave Moniz the flag to take with him, one that the vice admiral and several other staff members signed.
But as the expedition neared the summit, Moniz realized there could be a hiccup in getting a promised photo of the flag atop the mountain.
“Early the morning of May 20 we were moving so fast up Everest that it became apparent that we would reach the summit in the dark,” Moniz said. “Knowing that we made a promise to fly the 7th Fleet flag on the summit, it had to be in the light of day, so we burrowed in at the Hillary Step with the flag and waited for about an hour for dawn to break.”
The decision to wait for daylight paid off, as the team reached the summit at the perfect time and in optimum weather conditions to allow for some excellent photo opportunities.
Weeks after completing the climb, the explorer returned the flag to 7th Fleet headquarters in Japan and was welcomed aboard the fleet’s flagship, the Blue Ridge, to learn more about day-to-day life as a sailor.
“I was not aware of the sheer number of people involved with making a ship maneuver even a slight bit,” he said in the Navy release. “Overall, it’s amazing the responsibility everyone has, from steering a ship to being able to fight fires.”
After departing Japan, Moniz made the long trip back to Hanover, New Hampshire, where he’s currently studying at Dartmouth College.
But despite the hustle and bustle lifestyle of an Ivy League college student who spends his spare time climbing the world’s tallest mountains, Moniz told Navy Times that May’s trip is one that will always stand out.
“I’m incredibly proud to have had a chance to honor the service and sacrifices the Navy’s men and women have made to protect the liberties we cherish. We couldn’t take the flag any higher.”
Jon Simkins is a writer and editor for Military Times, and a USMC veteran.