Hang Tough

3 Miles. 2 Girls. 1 Mountain.

The meanings behind the reasons

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When people ask me why I’m going on holiday to places like Bastogne, or Normandy, or Toccoa, I always explain by starting with, “Well, there’s this TV show I like…” But to properly understand why Jo and I take these trips, you have to understand what Band of Brothers really means to us.

If you’re predisposed to being a nerd, you’ll know how it feels to tumble headlong into a fandom. Some fandoms burn bright and then fade quickly, others stick with you for years. Band of Brothers is one of those shows that just got its hooks into me and never let go. I loved the story it told, the way it was written, the way it was shot, the characters – it’s one of those rare TV shows where everything works, and it still holds up today, almost 16 years after it was first broadcast. Band of Brothers is one of those fandoms that just sucks you in and the deeper you get into it, the more you love it.

To understand the real reason why Jo and I want to climb Currahee, you have to go back to 2010.

I turned 30 in 2010, and I was in no mood for celebrating. My dad had died the year before, and as a result my self-confidence had taken a huge nosedive. One of the most positive influences on my life was suddenly gone, and I stumbled towards my 30th birthday feeling a bit dazed, and wondering what there was to celebrate. On my birthday, Jo (because she is one of the most awesome human beings on the planet) presented me with an album filled with personalised birthday messages from the stars of Band of Brothers. It was mind-blowing, I couldn’t believe the time that Jo, and everyone else, had taken to make sure I had a happy birthday. It’s still the single most thoughtful thing anyone has ever done for me, because it made me feel important and special – all the things I hadn’t been feeling since I’d lost my dad. We’d both been in the Band of Brothers fandom online for a while, but I think it was this incredible photo album which started us on a path to super nerd status.

Band of Brothers Album

The Band of Brothers birthday album

Jump forward to 2011. I was still having a rough time of it, but me and my mum had just booked a weekend away to Paris. Jo emailed me to tell me that there was going to be a charity event in Devon where actors from Band of Brothers were going to do a parachute jump to raise money to erect a statue of Major Dick Winters in Normandy. I wanted to go so badly, but it was the same weekend we’d booked to go to Paris. In another remarkable act of kindness, my mum took herself off to the travel agent and paid to move the holiday to another weekend so I could go. I can still remember her saying to me, “I just want you to be happy”. At the time, I don’t think she realised that the legacy of that desire for me to be happy would last for years.

Jumping For Heroes - 2011

With Ross Owen at Jumping For Heroes – 2011

That trip to Devon was where we first met some incredible friends who we treasure to this day. We spent the weekend with Laura and Elodie, who we’d only ever seen online before, but are now firmly in our nerd squad. We got the chance to meet some of the actors, who amazed us with their patience and their willingness to spend time with us while we geeked out. We met a relative of one of the real-life veterans, who was generous and friendly and welcoming, plus all the people like Ross Owen and his team of volunteers, who worked so tirelessly to put on this event.

We came home from that weekend on a high, and ever since then it has snowballed. We went to Normandy in 2014 for another reunion, then again in 2015. On each trip we would have the joy of catching up with our old friends, and we always came back having made some new ones, and with new stories and new in-jokes. We met even more of the actors, who are just about the nicest bunch of guys you could ever wish to meet, more of the veterans’ families, and more fans, like us, from all over the world.

Bastogne 2016

Jo, Phil Barantini (Skinny Sisk), Ross McCall (Joe Liebgott), Rick Gomez (George Luz), Lindsey, Rick Warden (Harry Welsh), James Madio (Frank Perconte) – Bastogne, 2016

Having visited pretty much every last gun placement and war museum in Normandy, Jo and I decided to take a more epic European road trip last year to visit some of the other locations from the Band of Brothers story. We visited Eindhoven and the Island in the Netherlands, toured the Bois Jacques in Bastogne, dipped our toes into the lake at Zell am See and made the trip up to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest. Then another actor’s reunion was announced for Bastogne in December, so we assembled the nerd squad again and went back to Belgium, picking up even more new friends on the way. By now, the actors seem to be just used to having us around, kind of like we’re part of the furniture. It really feels like we’re part of a big, friendly, nerdy community, and it’s really special.

One location had remained out of our reach so far – Toccoa, which is where it all began for Easy Company.

We decided we needed to finally tick it off the list, so we booked our usual bi-annual trip to Orlando, but added a few days on the beginning of the trip to take a road trip to Atlanta, and then visit Toccoa. And you can’t visit Toccoa without climbing Currahee, so it looked like these two lumpy fangirls were going to have to get in shape enough to haul their butts to the top.

It was at the event in Bastogne that we hit upon doing this for charity. The Band of Brothers events have all been organised by the World War II Foundation, a charity which aims to honour the memory of those who served in World War II. These events have meant so much to us, so it just seemed fitting that we try to raise some money ourselves, as a thank you for all the incredible experiences we’ve had, the friends we’ve made, and the places we’ve travelled to. So please donate if you’re able, not just to remember the veterans, but to help two nerds say thank you for some of the best fun we’ve had.

And all because “there’s this TV show I like…”

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