Musician Duff McKagan's column runs every Wednesday on Playbook Sounds.
This past Monday was Memorial Day, of course, and most of us got to see or experience a moment or two that commemorated our Armed Forces veterans.
From the Indianapolis 500 prerace spectacle to the Minnesota Twins’ epic effort of bringing a soldier home from Afghanistan to surprise his two daughters at the game on Sunday, sports helped us remember to appreciate our servicemen and women.
I’ve written before of my mountain climber buddy Tim Medvetz and his Heroes Project. Tim has made it a personal mission to meet and train wounded veterans for big mountains. Big mountains like Kilimanjaro, Denali, Erebus and up. Big mountains personify life's obstacles to Tim, and getting wounded vets to face these obstacles is a service that he can single-handedly help them tackle, one veteran at a time.
U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Mark Zambon has six deployments under his belt -- three in Iraq and three in Afghanistan. When Mark had seen all that he could see as a foot soldier, he chose to challenge himself in explosive ordinance disposal. In plain English? "The Hurt Locker."
On Mark’s fifth deployment, he lost three fingers of his left hand when a bomb he was trying to clear went off. He got himself healed up from that and opted to go back for a sixth deployment. Mark knew that he could help save lives, and he saw no personal heroics in going back in after losing half of his left hand.
On that last deployment in Afghanistan, Mark got a call to clear a bomb found in the field. On his way in, a secondary and unseen bomb went off when he stepped on it. Mark lost both of his legs above the knee.
Mark Zambon has not lost a step, though you would think being a double amputee would slow him down. No, Zambon met Tim Medvetz and started training his body and mind for high-altitude mountaineering. These dudes are climbing the tallest mountain in Africa (Mount Kilimanjaro) in four weeks’ time.
It hasn’t been easy for Mark. I have followed his physical training regimen as much as possible. Swimming, yoga, climbing, biking … and pain. Where Mark’s legs were amputated, they are now pulsing with big bunches of nerves healing together. The only way for Mark to get past this mind-numbing pain is just to basically beat the hell out of those spots.
Mark has had the help of friends and fellow comrades. The community around Camp Pendleton has shown up for these wounded warriors. Meals for SEALs has fed him through this training. Full Circle Yoga, a San Diego yoga facility that donates its time to fallen heroes, has been Mark’s mind and body dojo. And Medvetz has been the man with the plan. Tim’s undaunting search for fallen veterans, and one-on-one mountain training and fundraising, are actually quite breathtaking to hear about. But his fundraising always needs a lot of help.
If you are looking for a way to help veterans and are unsure of how to go about doing it, may I suggest Tim’s Heroes Project, or Full Circle Yoga or Meals for SEALs.
Follow Mark and Tim’s Kilimanjaro climb through The Heroes Project website.
This is man stuff, people.