Fairview native Col. Don Fallin is asking people to take a leap of faith in supporting him and his teammates as they climb Mt. Kilimanjaro next month to raise funds for the Johnny Mac Soldiers Fund (JMSF).
This is the second fundraiser Fallin has done for JMSF, which honors military service and sacrifice by providing scholarships to veterans and military family members, especially to children of our nation’s fallen or disabled. Fallin served with the fund’s namesake, Col. John M. McHugh, at Ft. Rucker. McHugh was killed in action in Kabul on May 18, 2010.
“He was a soldier, husband, father and friend. While serving his country, he made the ultimate sacrifice. Now, he serves as our inspiration,” said Fallin.
This is Fallin’s second endurance event for the fund. The first was a six-month hike of the Appalachian Trail in 2018. Fallin said JMSF typically does golf tournaments as fundraisers, but one of his friends suggested an endurance event and threw out the idea of hiking the Appalachian Trail.
“I’m like, ‘yeah, sure, I’ll knock that out,” said Fallin. “Unbeknownst to me, that thing was long,” he laughed.
He left in March of 2018 and made the 2,180 mile trek from Georgia to Maine. “It went well and it certainly felt good doing it,” he said. “It was very rewarding. It was more difficult than I anticipated, so I was hooked on that.”
In that event, said Fallin, he didn’t start asking for donations to JMSF until he was a few weeks in and felt confident about completing the event. This time around, he’s part of a team of four and is asking donors to contribute before the team begins the climb on Jan. 10.
“I call it a leap of faith,” he said. “People have to donate under the assumption that we can get there under these conditions, which are brutal.”
It will take the team about seven days to reach the summit, Uhuru Point, 19,341 feet above sea level. Kilaminjaro is the highest summit in Africa and the world’s tallest free-standing mountain. Climbers go through five different ecological climates – from bushland to arctic – to reach the top.
“What’s different in this one is that I’m part of a team, which is super nice, as opposed to being out in the woods for days on end by myself,” said Fallin. He said that event, though, showed him the best of our country: it’s people.
“You realize that we have an amazing country,” he said. “I met people who were just amazing people. The way they help each other is awesome, truly inspiring.”
This time around, he’s hoping people will also be inspired to give to JMSF on behalf of him and his teammates. All four are graduates of the United States Military Academy at West Point, where Fallin graduated from in 1988. Fallin retired in 2016 from Fort Bragg NC, with over 30 years of service in Infantry, Aviation and Special Operations assignments. He’s currently working in the Middle East and preparing for the climb next month.
“I try to get in a hike on the weekends,” he said. “I’m in the Middle East so that’s not as easy as some places, but we have a gym that I go to.”
The team’s goal is to raise $20,000 for JMSF. The fund awards $5,000 scholarships to veterans and their families.
“I”m very peculiar about the folks I associate with and the Johnny Mac Fund is a great organization. This climb is about the kids. It about taking care of the families that paid the ultimate sacrifice,” said Fallin.
To donate on behalf of Fallin and his team, visit
Amy Henderson can be reached at 256-734-2131 Ext. 216.