By Sergeant Thomas Bauschke
At 6:10 a.m., Feb. 21, I summited Mount Kilimanjaro at 19,341 feet. It was a wonderful six-day climb in one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.
Kilimanjaro is truly magical.
Mount Kilimanjaro is in the east African country of Tanzania, which requires every climber to hire guides and porters. These amazing and inspirational men and women carry all the gear and food required for the treks up the mountain. Daily pay is meager, so their hard work is focused on service for tips from us clients. My crew cooked me three hot meals most days, with so much food that I actually gained weight on the climb! My guide, David Charles Mshana, was patient, knowledgeable and fun. I marveled at the weight of the loads porters carried for me; often singing as they climbed and beating me to camp every single day.
I felt strong the whole six-day climb. On summit morning, I left camp an hour later than most groups at 1 a.m. and still beat nearly all other climbers to the summit. I later spoke with a 65-year-old man who made it…and a 40-year-old man who didn’t (his wife did). I had plenty of energy left at the top as well, and wanted to spend time exploring the summit, but a foot of new snow stopped me cold. Climbing on snow and ice in and around the wide summit crater without proper equipment is too risky. That much snow on the summit, however, is rare on Kilimanjaro, so it was a special day to climb. I would say that gives me a reason to go back someday and discover more about one of the most beautiful places on earth.
My new favorite words: hakuna matata, which in Swahili means “no worries.” And pole, pole, which means “slow, slow.”
Support for this fund-raiser for The Wounded Warrior Project has been incredible. I’ve just received the last of my donations, so now I can report just how successful my fund-raiser has been. Donations have totaled $5,501; $4,053 in checks mailed to my American Legion contacts, $785 in checks mailed directly to the WWP, $570 donated via the WWP Web site and $93 in cash for which I wrote a check to the WWP.
In the wake of Haiti and the massive amounts donated to that worthy cause, I am humbled and grateful that Americans have not forgotten the men and women who sacrifice so very much every day to defend our great nation. Thank you all for your wonderful support!
Contact Thomas Bauschke via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the April 14-20, 2010 issue