Airmen climb to raise money, awareness for vets

Above, Maj. Rob Marshall leads pushups in memory of fallen airmen on the summit in Tumbarumba, New South Wales, Australia, in 2011. Each pushup generated donations to military charities. (U.S. Air Force Seven Summits Challenge)

From Air Force Times staff writer Jeff Schogol:

In March 2003, Senior Master Sgt. Robert Disney watched a helicopter crash in eastern Afghanistan, killing his friend and mentor, Master Sgt. Michael Maltz.

“He was on the cover of the Air Force pamphlet for pararescue,” Disney said. “His face and how he appeared in that picture is what made me want to be a PJ [pararescueman].”

Disney plans to honor his friend when he accompanies a group of airmen getting ready to leave on an expedition to climb Mount Everest.

“In his memory, I haven’t told anybody this, but I’m going to bring a picture of him and hand it to one of the climbers to leave on top of the mountain,” Disney said. “When they do memorial pushups on top of the mountain, I want them to do one for Mike.”

Disney is participating in the U.S. Air Force Seven Summits Challenge, a group of airmen who set out to climb the tallest mountain of each of the seven continents to raise money for charity and commemorate the fallen. They will leave March 28 for the Himalayas and hope to summit the tallest of them all, the 29,029-foot Mount Everest, on May 15, only a few days shy of the 60th anniversary of the first summit on May 29, 1953, by Sir Edmund Hillary.

Maj. Rob Marshall is captain of the Seven Summits Challenge team. He first had the idea of climbing Everest when he visited the base camp there in 2001. Four years later, several of his friends were killed in a plane crash in Albania.

“I guess it’s when I realized that I wasn’t indestructible,” Marshall said.

Read the rest of Jeff’s story over on Air Force Times.