Semper Hike: Two Veterans “Walk Off the War” on the Appalachian Trail
Nearly three months ago Bill, trail-name Glacier, left to hike the Appalachian Trail in search of walking off lingering stress from his previous deployment to Kuwait. The trail is treating him very well. We spoke just before the 4th of July and he sounded more like the pre-deployment Bill I remember: engaged, upbeat and with depth to his tone. A former Marine, he has walked far into Virginia and has every intention of completing his journey to Katahdin and, more importantly, to clarity and resolution. To “walk off the war.”
In our conversation, Bill told me about a trail mate, with whom he hiked for a long stretch, and of a veteran’s program of which I was unaware. Both are incredible stories and I’d like to take this moment to share them with you:
While hiking along the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, he met up with another former Marine (trail-name: Grilled Cheese) who’d been previously deployed to Afghanistan as a dog handler for a bomb division. After grinding through time in combat, Grilled Cheese returned home to walk off the stress on the Appalachian Trail. According to Bill, the Marine Corps allowed him to adopt his former bomb dog “Hitch.” Hitch joined him on the trail and the three combat Veterans hiked together: Glacier, Grilled Cheese and Hitch. I can only imagine the stories and shared camaraderie.
(I have reached out to Grilled Cheese and hope to write more of him and his story for you. Hopefully an update will come soon.) Although Grilled Cheese and Hitch have marched ahead, I’m certain their time together was helpful for each of the three. Bill said it was great to spend time with another veteran from the Corps whose training of ‘Get the Job Done’ created a common bond that personally helped him while on the trail.
Also, Bill spoke of a program that is helping combat Veterans transition from military service: The Warrior Hike “Walk Off the War” Program. Founded in 2012 by Marine Captains, Mark Silvers and Sean Gobin, this program supports combat veterans as they hike the Appalachian Trail in an effort to walk off stress from time spent in war. Now partnering with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, you can follow the Warrior Hike program, and their soldiers, via their website.
If you’d like to sponsor a veteran’s hike along the Appalachian Trail, please reach out to Warrior Hike. I’m sure they’ll point you in the right direction.
Follow Bill on his Facebook community page.