In May 2011, retired New England Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi, former Tennessee Titans Coach Jeff Fisher and former Philadelphia Eagles tight end Chad Lewis took four injured service members on an expedition to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa.
Inspired by the project, my dad, Steve Connolly, a retired Air Force Reserve Lieutenant Colonel and current American Airlines pilot, decided to form his own Kilimanjaro Expedition called Kilimanjaro Warriors.
You see, my dad was lucky in the military. Taking prisoners and dodging open fire in Desert Storm, he was able to return home safely to see his first child be born. As he witnessed the harsh reality of the outcome of war for many people, he definitely realizes how fortunate he is and has embarked on this adventure as a way to give back. A way to show his gratitude.
His goal is to give disabled veterans an additional motivational tool in their rehabilitation processes, and provide them with a monumental goal that, once achieved, will give them an incentive to lead a fulfilling life. He plans to lead an excursion to climb Mount Kilimanjaro beginning February 10, 2014.
Attempting to summit the highest freestanding mountain in the world with him are six disabled veterans, all above or below the knee leg amputees, and three other able-bodied wingmen climbers. Some will be learning to climb with crutches, some have prosthetics they are still adjusting to (what are you doing with your day, right?), but they fully intend to summit that mountain and have been training vigorously in the mean time.
Through my dad’s persistence, donations and support have come flying in from every direction. Retired Cowboy’s quarterback Roger Staubach and actor and musician Gary Senisi (below) are supporting the project, along with great family and friends from every aspect of my dad’s life.
Until the expedition, the Kilimanjaro Warriors team will continue fundraising, rehabilitation and training for the climb.
You can track their progress by searching Kilimanjaro Warriors on Facebook, or visiting www.kilimanjarowarriors.com.
If you are interested in becoming a wingman to Kilimanjaro Warriors, tax-deductible donations can be made at www.airwarriorcourage.org/donations.html. In the comments section, please include, “For Kilimanjaro Warriors.”
Dad, I couldn’t be more proud of you, your motivation, your selflessness, your positive attitude, your heart. Being your daughter is the best thing that ever happened to me and I can’t wait to grow up to be just like you! Thanks for being my best friend and my greatest inspiration. I can’t wait to know how your greatest adventure yet turns out!