MARC CHASE: Scaling Everest in the heart of a war zone

2013-08-08T00:00:00Z 2013-08-08T18:25:40Z MARC CHASE: Scaling Everest in the heart of a war zoneBy Marc Chase marc.chase@nwi.com, (219) 662-5330 nwitimes.com
August 08, 2013 12:00 am  • 

One wouldn't expect a group of U.S. Marines, Navy Seabees and other British and civilian forces — stationed in the heart of a war zone and already risking life and limb — to take on duties beyond the noble tasks already at hand.

You don't ask active duty servicemen to scale Everest when they're already in the middle of a freedom fight.

But Crete native Chief Warrant Officer-2 Aaron McKee and his band of military brothers are doing just that in the Helmand Province of southern Afghanistan.

McKee's group is training right now on the pull-up bars at their base, working its way up to enough pull-ups to equal a climb of Mount Everest. Its asking for sponsors to pledge cash toward its endeavors on a special website, through which the proceeds will to go the Wounded Warriors program. The program helps servicemen and servicewomen who have lost limbs or suffered other war injuries.

Whether or not you agree with our military actions overseas, we all should be proud of what McKee and his comrades-in-arms are doing over there — through their actual military service and this mountainous pull-up feat.

This young man took a portion of his free time last week — when he wasn't grabbing cold steel and working his biceps — to fill me in on this fun and remarkable thing they are doing.

McKee, who attended Crete-Monee schools, said the team of 15 is working its way up to the big date of Aug. 10 — this Saturday — at which it plans to collectively perform more than 14,500 pull-ups. That means grabbing a bar with your feet dangling and using arm muscles to pull your body up and your chin past the bar, lowering back down and then raising up again as many times as possible in a session.

The magic number of 14,500-plus pull-ups equals roughly the 29,030-foot elevation of Mount Everest, estimating that each pull-up is worth about 2 feet. To make this happen, the team wants each member to average more than 1,000 pull-ups during Saturday's pull-up marathon.

That's a staggering number. I'm not sure I could contribute more than two to the group's total. And trust me: You don't want to observe my form on a pull-up bar. It wouldn't be an aesthetically pleasing sight for anyone.

But McKee said his team is just about ready to do it. And just as with all its missions, failure isn't an option. The group recently blasted through 500 pull-ups each in a little more than two hours. They want to try to "scale Everest" in about four hours Saturday.

Fittingly, they're doing so with healthy limbs in a benefit to other servicemen and servicewomen who have sacrificed theirs.

If you're as moved by what they're doing as I am, follow the web addresses attached to this column and pledge some monetary support. If you're anything like me, a pledge would be much better than offering the team solidarity pull-ups.

Semper Fidelis, Chief Warrant Officer McKee. You and your team are making the region proud in so many ways.

Investigative Editor Marc Chase can be reached at (219) 662-5330 or marc.chase@nwi.com. The opinions are the writer's.

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