TANZANIA – Col. Don Fallin, retired Army special operations aviator and Fairview High School alumnus, along with fellow United States Military Academy (USMA/West Point) graduates John Magness and Jamie Brennan, set off last week to reach the summit of Tanzania’s Mt. Kilimanjaro and raise both awareness and funds for the Johnny Mac Soldiers Fund, which provides scholarships to veterans and veterans’ families, especially the children of fallen or disabled warriors. Early Saturday morning, The Tribune received this short but welcome note from the Colonel: “Mission complete.”
Team Johnny Mac faced a list of challenges along the way. According to Fallin, just getting from the Middle East- where he was working as an advisor while preparing for the climb- to Tanzania proved to be a struggle, thanks to COVID-19 restrictions and other delays. Along the way, an intended fourth team member had to step away from the climb after he tested positive for COVID-19. Packing for what should have been a fairly warm weather trek until it got near the summit, the team endured four days of cold and rain, punctuated by occasional sleet and hail.
Fallin told The Tribune, “It was cold. Even with all the cold weather gear I had, I was pretty frozen. But then it all worked out the couple of days. The team was doing good. We had an excellent guide that was helping us, and we knew we were finishing a day ahead of schedule.”
Once atop the summit, the team was ready for the mission to be completed, so it pushed hard down the mountain: a five and one-half day journey up concluded with a trip down of less than half a day.
Said Fallin, “The day was pretty brutal. We were moving because the guide said, ‘If you hurry, we can get you back down, get you to a hotel room.’ I’m like, ‘We’re all in!’”
The real triumph: fundraising goal surpassed
The team undertook the climb to raise awareness and funds for the Johnny Mac Soldiers Fund, whose website offers this description:
Giving Back Through Education: The Johnny Mac Soldiers Fund honors military service and sacrifice by providing scholarships to veterans and military family members, particularly children of our nation’s fallen and disabled. Time and again, our soldiers and their families are asked to give of themselves for the rest of us. While they ask little in return, we owe them so much. Through education, we give back to those who gave. We give back to “Our Own.” It’s the least we can do.
The fundraising goal for the climb was $50,000. Johnny Mac set up a campaign page at https://give.johnnymac.org/campaign/team-johnny-mac-summits-kilimanjaro/c313175 for supporters to make tax-deductible donations. As of Saturday morning, the campaign total sat at $53,229 and still counting!
Supporters can still contribute, and one of Fallin’s USMA class of 1988 classmates challenged other classmates to contribute by offering to match their donations.
Col. Fallin and family are now in the process of relocating back home to the Cullman area.
The Johnny Mac Soldiers Fund is still accepting donations for this campaign. To contribute, visit the Johnny Mac site at www.johnnymac.org.
Johnny Mac Soldiers Fund is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization; donations are tax-deductible. All funds go directly to the Johnny Mac Soldiers Fund and a receipt is sent via email.
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