HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Who doesn’t love a good challenge? I checked back in with a man who said he was done for a while. That didn’t last long.
We first caught up with retired Army Colonel Don Fallin in 2018. He was hiking the Appalachian trail, all 2,190 miles. “I enjoy the outdoors,” he told me, adding “We raised over $17,600 for the Johnny Mac Soldiers Fund.” The fund helps the children of our nation’s fallen, wounded or disabled veterans, go to college.
Fallin wore out five pair of shoes and lost 28 pounds during the hike that took him six months and three weeks to complete. And now, he’s ready for another challenge. This one will take five to eight days.
Speaking on Zoom with him in Saudi Arabia, he said, “We’ll kick off about midnight and then make the summit because you can’t stay up there too long cause of the extreme altitude. We want to minimize the chances of altitude sickness.”
Fallin and three other West Point graduates, Jamie Brennan, Todd Miller, and John Magness are going to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania. It is the highest mountain in Africa at 19,340 feet. The biggest concern is trying to get the team together during a world-wide pandemic. “We’ve got folks coming from Alabama, Georgia and California and I’m coming from the Middle East,” Fallin told me.
They’ve been preparing mentally and physically for eight months. “Trying to be as physically fit as you can, proper diet, hydration and just pacing ourselves as we go up,” Fallin said, “So that’s really the only thing you can do and hope for the best on that.”
Unlike his solo hike of the Appalachian trail, this will be a team effort with each climber pushing themselves to get to the top. “The pressure is kind of off as an individual because as long as one of us makes it to the summit, it’s a success,” he said smiling.
When I asked if he’d like to be that person, he smiled even bigger and said, “Sir, just as long as one of the teammates make it. I’m probably the lowest common denominator with this group of folks I have going up. There are some pretty athletic folks going along so maybe one of them can just carry me to the top.”
The team hopes to link up Friday, January 8th. “We’ve got a planning and a prep day, equipment check on the 9th and we step off the morning of the 10th,” Fallin said, “And then eight days later, we should come down the evening of the 17th.” They’ll all fly back home to the U.S. after that.
Actor Gary Sinese who helps veterans through his foundation, is once again raising awareness of Fallin’s efforts to raise money for the Johnny Mac Soldiers Fund. He’s also getting a lot of love and support from his family, friends, and team Johnny Mac. “Like last time, my classmates from both Fairview High School there in Cullman and my West Point Classmates are really rallying behind us,” he said thankfully, “You can’t do anything by yourself so a great team behind us and we’ve very fortunate to represent a great organization sir.”
The group has set a goal of raising $50,000 for the Johnny Mac Soldiers Fund. You can click on the link to for more information on the campaign and to donate. We’ll check back in with Colonel Fallin after the climb when he comes home. He promises to take some pictures to share.