Walking Off The War

The Warrior Hike helps vets transition back to civilian life via thru-hiking.
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The Warrior Hike helps vets transition back to civilian life via thru-hiking.
(photo/Warrior Hike)

(photo/Warrior Hike)

The hardships of war can cause a lifetime of mental stress for returning military veterans. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can make it seem impossible to ever return to a normal life. Fortunately, Sean Gobin is here to help.

Gobin returned from active combat duty in 2012, but instead of letting the stress defeat him, he hiked. And not just any hike, either: Gobin trekked all 2,185 miles of the Appalachian Trail. During his travels, he recognized the therapeutic effects of long distance hiking, which inspired him to create a program aimed to help his fellow veterans.

Founded in 2013, Gobin's "Walk off the War" program put 14 veterans on the Appalachian Trail, providing support and supplies along the way. In 2014, the program expanded to include the Triple Crown of thru-hiking (Appalachian Trail, Continental Divide Trail, Pacific Crest Trail). That year, 25 veterans participated. This year, Gobin expects to grow even further

Running the program has been a huge time commitment for Gobin, who estimates that it's a "12-15 hour per day commitment." He ran everything on his own for the first few years before finally enlisting a small crew of volunteers.

Interested veterans may apply online and provide their demographic information and military service information. Gobin and his team conduct surveys and Skype interviews to decide which trail is best for each candidate.

Read more: Warrior Hike

From the archives: Read Brian Mockenhaupt's feature, "All Quiet on the Western Front," about an Iraq veteran who thru-hiked the PCT in 2013.