The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), in partnership with Warrior Hike, Operation Military Embrace, the Military Family Lifestyle Charitable Foundation, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association, has launched a new initiative called the “Walk Off the War” program. This program will provide 13 military veterans the opportunity to reconnect with the United States in a uniquely physical and psychological way – a fully funded scholarship to hike the Appalachian Trail (A.T.).
All participating veterans are not required to hike the entire A.T., but rather experience the physical, psychological and spiritual benefits of the Trail.
“Similar to Earl Shaffer, the first A.T. 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,” stated Rich Daileader, former thru-hiker and board member of the ATC. “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 program will provide full scholarships to equip and support 13 military veterans. The first group of veterans will begin their journey on March 17th in Springer Mountain, Georgia. The rest of the veterans will begin their hike by April 15th.
The ATC, trail maintaining clubs along the A.T. and veterans groups in various “trail towns” will provide the veterans, who may travel alone or in small groups, with ancillary support services. This may include hosting a hiker or arranging transportation.
Two of the driving forces behind this initiative are Captains Sean Gobin and Mark Silvers, two Marines that upon returning from Afghanistan in 2012, hiked the A.T. to help purchase 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.
For more information about this program visit www.appalachiantrail.org/events or www.walkoffthewar.com.
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