Veterans “Walk Off the War” On the Appalachian Trail
People around the world felt the pain of more than 4,200 people whose cruise over Valentine’s Day 2013 turned into what everyone called a “nightmare” because of a lack of food, air conditioning, showers and clean restrooms for a few days. Granted, it was not what cruisers signed up for and their expectations for a pleasant vacation at sea were crushed.
Sorry, but compared to the conditions American soldiers endure every day around the world, that was a picnic, not a nightmare. Add armed hostiles trying to shoot passengers, language & cultural barriers and improvised explosive devices planted throughout the ship, then the comparison to the nightmare endured by our Armed Forces is bit more realistic. In my humble opinion.
Veterans should be among those who are most honored by our society. They do for us what most of us would not do for them. We are in their debt.
That’s part of the reason AppalachianTrail.com commends the many groups who worked together for the Walk Off the War initiative.
Walk Off the War will provide 13 military veterans the opportunity to reconnect with the United States in what’s termed “a uniquely physical and psychological way” – a fully funded scholarship to hike the Appalachian Trail (AT).
The coalition of:
- The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC)
- Warrior Hike
- Operation Military Embrace
- the Military Family Lifestyle Charitable Foundation
- the Veterans of Foreign Wars
- and the Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association
makes this worthy program possible.
Veterans who take part are not required to thru-hike the AT. The goal is to provide them time and resources for a “self-directed, self-paced journey along the AT.” We all hope and pray that the opportunity will help eliminate the negative effects of the war, as they spend time on the trail alone or with other hikers, receiving hospitality from Appalachian Trail Communities along the Trail.
Men and women who fight our wars and protect citizens of scores of other nations deserve nothing less than a walk in the woods in return.
Rich Daileader, former thru-hiker and board member of the ATC, put it this way: “Similar to Earl Shaffer, the first AT thru-hiker, these veterans will have the opportunity to journey along the Appalachian Trail and experience first hand the benefits of retreating back into nature. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is proud to partner up with Warrior Hike and several other Military and Veteran organizations to offer this incredible experience to our military veterans.”
The first group of veterans began their journey on March 17th at Springer Mountain — joining the 500+ hikers who have already hit the Trail. The other veterans will begin their hike by April 15th.
The ATC, trail maintaining clubs and veterans groups along the AT will support the veterans, who may travel alone or in small groups.
The driving forces behind this project are Captains Sean Gobin and Mark Silvers, Marines who hiked the AT in 2012, after deployment in Afghanistan, to raise money to buy adapted vehicles for seriously wounded veterans. They are also the co-founders of Warrior Hike, a non-profit organization geared to raise funds for wounded veterans.
This year’s group of veterans includes:
- Adam Bautz
- Rob Carmel
- Steve Clendenning
- Stephanie Cutts
- Dick Erwin
- Gary Ewin
- Chris Galemore
- Thomas Gathman
- William Guill
- Jeff Harper
- Kevin Reed
- Sharon Smith
- and Cody Umphress.
This event is sponsored by 2Toms, Adventure Medical Kits, Ahnu, Antigravity Gear, Backcountry Edge, The Earl Shaffer Foundation, Easton Mountain Products, Good Sports, Granite Gear, Katadyn, Kelty, Leki, L.L.Bean, McKee Foods, Off Grid Expeditions, Railriders, Sawyer, The A.T. Guide, and Wise Company.
Marine Corps Captains Mark Silvers and Sean Gobin founded a non-profit called Warrior Hike, then thru-hiked all 2,180 miles of the Appalachian Trail to support wounded veterans. During their journey, Mark and Sean organized different speaking events at veterans organizations located along the Appalachian Trail. At the completion of their hike, Mark and Sean were able to purchase adapted vehicles for seriously wounded veterans from the war in Afghanistan.
Captains Silvers and Gobin are heroes.
Sean Gobin, Warrior Hike