Milestone birthdays cause many people to reflect on what they’ve done with their life or what they’d still like to do. Some folks use an upcoming birthday to set goals while others may use the occasion to try something adventurous.
Depending on the age of the one celebrating an additional year, it may be a time to re-examine what one wants out of life. Birthdays can be moments designed to let others celebrate your longevity, or, in some instances, an opportunity to do something for others.
This is where we meet a man named Steve Kiser, who will turn 70 later this month. He’s spent most of the last year trying to figure out what to do to celebrate his 70th birthday. He’s a totally disabled vet who came to Charleston as a sailor aboard a Navy submarine in 1973.
Maybe it’s because he wondered if he’d ever live this long, or if he did, what kind of life could he enjoy? He’s found a purpose, though, and is attacking this goal with an uncommon determination. He wants to do something for himself, and for others.
Kiser’s life took a decided downturn in 1984. He’d been an active runner in the area and in the early '80s once raised money for the March of Dimes by running for 24 straight hours.
During shore duty, while carrying a 75-pound brick of lead used as a ballast, Kiser fell from a 4-foot platform to the steel deck of a small craft.
“I was in bed almost two years,” says Kiser, “and my back was badly damaged. From 1986 to 1996, he endured five different surgeries. He started taking large doses of morphine to deal with the pain.
“I told the doctors I couldn’t live this way.” What Kiser didn’t realize at that point was that he and the hospitals, doctors, nurses and medications were about to be very familiar with each other.
In 2011-12, there were two brain surgeries to alleviate facial spasms, two shoulder replacement surgeries and a left knee replacement. He was probably wondering if the ever-popular backless hospital gown was a permanent part of his wardrobe.
As the years ticked away, he described himself as a totally unemployable, 100 percent disabled veteran.
He could no longer run like he once could — but with a fused back, he could walk, and he could walk with a purpose and for long periods of time.
He decided on a goal, attached to a cause.
Lap after lap
Kiser has decided for his 70th birthday to walk/run 70 km. That equals almost 44 miles. He’ll start at 8 p.m. on the evening of Aug. 24 and hopes to reach his goal at 8 a.m. the following morning. He’ll attempt this at the Charleston Southern University track. The school has agreed to keep the stadium lights on for him through the night. His son, a CSU grad, will be part of his support team to keep him hydrated.
Vicky, Kiser’s wife of 52 years, “didn’t initially care for the idea, but she’ll be there through the night.” Kiser also expects members from Calvary Nazarene Church to provide support. He serves the church as the music director.
Kiser has done the math. He needs to average 4 mph. That will mean 176 laps around the track in 12 hours.
So those are the basics, but not the entire story to this soon-to-be, 70-year-old’s idea. There’s one other component.
Kiser is hoping to raise money and awareness for the Wounded Warrior Project. “I want to help my brothers and sisters have a better life. I know I’ll suffer, but nothing close to what Wounded Warriors deal with every day.”
Steve Kiser found a goal and a purpose. He spent much of his 69th year planning this unique celebration of his 70th year. Is he asking too much of his body? “I’m bull-headed and stubborn. I will get the job done.”
It wouldn’t surprise me to see some of the people you’re trying to help, supporting and encouraging you to the finish line. They’re kind of known for leaving no one behind.