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US South Pole team in London before starting trek

– A team of wounded U.S. service members is in London this week for a publicity tour before starting a fundraising race to the South Pole with Britain’s Prince Harry.

The U.S. team members were among the thousands of people who marched in London’s Remembrance Sunday parade, Jason Eckman, the director of the Fort Collins, Colo.-based group Soldiers to Summits, which organized the team, said Monday.

Capt. Ivan Castro of Fort Bragg, N.C., a member who was blinded after mortar shells exploded near him in Iraq, said he was moved by meeting veterans from World War II and later.

“Just think of how history would have been so different if it wasn’t for those people in uniform,” he said in a telephone interview.

Also representing the U.S. are Mark Wise of Colorado Springs, Colo., Therese Frentz of Del Rio, Texas, and Margaux Mange of Yuma, Ariz.

They will leave Sunday to head to Antarctica to compete against teams of wounded service personnel from the United Kingdom and Australia and Canada. Prince Harry will race with the U.K. team. “True Blood” actor Alex Skarsgard will race with the Americans on the 208-mile trek. Dominic West of “The Wire” will race with the Commonwealth team.

The U.S. team has trained in the mountains of southwestern Colorado and Southern California as well as in Norway and Iceland but nothing can truly prepare them for the extreme conditions they’ll face. Temperatures could be as low as 49 degrees below zero with winds up to 50 mph. Each person will be on skis and pulling sleds carrying their supplies, including a lot of food. They’re supposed to consume 8,000 calories a day.

Castro said the aim is to show the world what disabled veterans are capable of doing, given the right training and resources. He wants the Americans to be the first to plant their flag at the South Pole but his bigger goal is for all the competitors to complete the trek.

“We’re all one team,” he said.

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