According to WarriorHike.com and The Walk The War Off Program, 13 new hikers sat off on their six month thru hike of the Appalachian Trail on Sunday, March 17th, 2013. These 13 new hikers chosen by Warrior Hike to receive a grant to hike the whole trail have all been deployed to war locations throughout the world during their employment with the US Military. All the hikers so far this year have seen some combat of some type and have been wounded in combat in some way or another. They are all looking for a way to end the war in their minds and get their lives back on tract. They are participating in a program designed by ex-combat soldiers for ex-combat soldiers that is geared to helping those with trouble to transition back into society in the US after their war experiences.
It was 2012 and Marine Corps Captains, Mark Silvers and Sean Gobin decided they would hike the entire Appalachian Trail and raise funds for disabled veterans. In 2011 they were both deployed to Afghanistan when they founded what is known today as Warrior Hike. According to the Warrior Hike's website, “Warrior Hike has partnered with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy to create the Walk Off The War Program. The Walk Off The War Program is designed to support wounded veterans transitioning from military service by hiking the Appalachian Trail.” In 2012, while the two military captains were thru hiking the Appalachian Trail, they were able to stop and start 35 fund raisers with veterans organizations along the trail.
In the end, they both completed their 2012 thru hike and had raised 50,000 dollars to purchase adapted vehicles veterans who were seriously wounded from the war in Afghanistan. They also had started their non-profit organization that is called “The Walk Off The War Program” along with the aid of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. During their 2012 thru hike, Mark and Sean, the programs founders, say they recognized the physical, psychological, and spiritual benefits of hiking the Appalachian Trail. They feel that this is a very good way for those coming home that are having a hard time dealing with their war experiences to relax and integrate back into society and to realize the validity of life. Those of you that have hiked the Appalachian Trail can agree that there is indeed a spiritual connection that you can experience during your hike.
Not a religious experience, but more of an internal decompression where aches and pains, stress, worry and problems seem to literally blow away with the breeze. Not only that but the physical aspects of hiking this mesmerizing trail are phenomenal. From curing diabetes to strengthening hearts and clearing minds that could not find a calm, the AT is a place for all to go too relax and heal. We applaud Warrior Hike for opening the trail to wounded veterans and showing them that life is indeed worth living, even after coming home from a long, life changing war.