A COUPLE are preparing to take on the challenge of a lifetime, in memory of a soldier pal killed in action.
Jessica Birch and Lee Turner will head to Africa later this year to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest freestanding mountain in the world.
“I’m definitely nervous - my previous climbing experience extends to taking the stairs at work if the lift is broken!” said 23-year-old Jessica.
Jessica and boyfriend Lee, from Rotherham, have pledged to raise £8,000 for Help The Heroes, which supports wounded soldiers and families of fallen soldiers.
The pledge is a tribute to Trooper James Leverett, who was killed in Afghanistan three years ago.
Dad-of-one James was fatally injured when his vehicle hit a bomb containing 40 kilogrammes of explosives in Helmand Province on July 5, 2010.
Jessica said: “Lee and I grew up with James. We all went right through primary and secondary school together.
“When he died, leaving behind his pregnant girlfriend, our entire community was heartbroken.”
Lee, also 23, joined the Army with James after school and served for six years, including in Afghanistan and Belize.
“It’s awful having somebody you love over there – you’re just waiting for that phone call,” said Jessica. “We have a group of five or six other friends who’ve served. Our whole class was so proud when they all joined - they’re real life heroes.”
Jessica and Lee have been training hard for the climb this October, but have still found time to raise more than £1,000 since Christmas with a series of race days and sponsored walks.
Jessica added: “We wanted to do the climb. We knew it would require intense training but we hope our efforts will inspire people to donate generously to this incredible cause.” n Visit www.bemycharity.com/jessielee