Big Bear, CA, May 2, 2015 – In 2012, two veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars decided to hike the Appalachian Trail. Their mission: to raise money by holding fundraisers and collecting donations at VFW Posts in trail towns along the way. By the time their hike ended in Maine, they had stopped at nearly 40 Posts and raised $48,500 which was all donated toward adaptive vehicles for amputee vets.
Astounded by the therapeutic results they experienced, they came to believe the hike could offer veterans diagnosed with PTSD the same benefit and so they created the Warrior Hike Program to literally ‘walk off the war’. In 2013, Warrior Hike sponsored 14 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who hiked the trail. Sean Gobin, who runs the program stated, “The process of hiking eight hours a day for six months forces you to think and reflect. The hikers watched each other process their own experiences and helped each other along the way. They witnessed a change in themselves and each other.”
Last spring 4 hikers took on the 2,650 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail which included a stop in Big Bear. This year 6 Warriors will be making the hike from Mexico to Canada. Every VFW Post they visit offers immense support, providing the veterans much needed rest as well as home cooked meals and clean sheets. But more importantly, their stops assist them with integrating back into society by establishing meaningful relationships between them and the community of veterans and citizens.
On Saturday, those 6 Warriors will make their third stop along the trail with an event at Big Bear Valley American Legion Post 584. The Warriors will share a meal with veteran members and citizens as well as a bit of their experience on the trail thus far.