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CLIMB FOR HEROES: Grand Forks' Ben Lunak among soldiers, NFL types to scale Mount Kilimanjaro

Ben Lunak is photographed Feb. 22, 2007, at his home in Grand Forks, N.D. Lunak credits his recovery to a positive attitude, a year after he lost his leg in Iraq. Herald photo by Eric Hylden.

Ben Lunak of Grand Forks will start today on a climb of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa.

The climbing expedition includes Lunak and three other former military personnel who were wounded in action. Lunak, 27, lost his right leg below the knee in a roadside bomb explosion in Iraq in February of 2006. He now has an artificial leg.

The climb will take 28 hours spread over six days, ending Wednesday.

The climb is designed to raise awareness and enlist the public's aid for the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit organization with a mission to honor and empower injured service members and educate the public on the challenges facing the latest generation of wounded American soldiers.

The four wounded warriors will be joined by three men with connections to the National Football League. Former players Tedy Bruschi and Chad Lewis will be joined by former coach Jeff Fisher on the climb.

"Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro will be memorable, but to be able to experience it with service members that have sacrificed so much for our country is what I'm truly looking forward to," said Bruschi, now a football analyst for ESPN-TV.

Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa and the fourth highest in the world. In preparation for the climb, the participants completed a three-day training session in Florida, participated in a march in New Mexico and climbed Quandary Peak in Golden, Colo.

Participants arrived in Tanzania on Wednesday and spent Thursday acclimating themselves to the climate and elevation.


Believe in Heroes

Reach Bakken at (701) 780-1125; (800) 477-6572, ext. 125; or send e-mail to