Soldiers delayed from returning home from Lebanon due to the Covid-19 crisis have kept themselves busy by raising nearly €30,000 for cancer charities and a suicide-prevention organisation.
Troops serving with the 115th Battalion, who have been based in southern Lebanon since last November, organised a number of fundraisers for Lebanese charities, and for Cork Arc Cancer Support, Millford Hospice, Limerick and Waterford Hospice.
“These charities are close to people’s hearts out here who have been affected by cancer through friends or loved ones, as indeed we all have,” said Lieutenant Paul Murphy, a Kilkenny hurler with four All-Stars, who helped organise the events.
Some troops ran the distance of a marathon up and down the 500m high “Snake Hill,” which is inside their compound. In total, they achieved a combined height equivalent of ascending Mount Everest.
Meanwhile, five teams, comprising 23 personnel each, completed several laps within their compound, including Snake Hill.
“We had the target of climbing Mount Everest the equivalent of six times. However, through great spirit and determination we managed nine, covering a total distance of 1,649km and combined height climbed of just over 80,000m,” Lieutenant Murphy said.
A total of 110 members of the battalion also took part in a 'Loaded March' where they carried 14kgs in their backpacks over distances of 25km and 40km. In total, they marched 4,879km.
“The funds raised from charity events during our trip is over €27,000. These also included a rope climb, race night and 'Darkness Into Light' walk, which we believe was possibly the only Darkness Into Light walk that was physically walked/ran in the world,” he said.
There are 300 Irish troops serving with the peacekeeping battalion. They were supposed to come home on two flights on May 12 and May 19. However, the UN decided because of the Covid-19 pandemic that it would put a stay on troop rotation.
They are now due to return home on June 21 and June 29.
A Defence Forces spokesman said on their return they'll have to undergo 14 days self-isolation.
The troops who will be sent out to replace them will have to self-isolate for 14 days prior to their departure at Lynch Camp, Kilworth, Co Cork or the Glen of Imaal, Co Wicklow.