Sean Gobin of Warrior Expeditions knows what it’s like to be angry and pessimistic about everything and everyone after 3 tours to the Middle East during his 12 years in the Marine Corps. He told us he was starting to struggle so he left the service in 2012. His transition took him on what he refers to as his “personal bucket list” – hiking the entire length of the Appalachian Trail. It was just the beginning of showing other veterans how to “walk off the war.”
Sean hiked the trail with a Marine buddy. It took them 4 1/2 months, and became highly therapeutic for them both. When he finished, his whole outlook had changed. He wanted to help others find that peace. So over the winter, he built Warrior Expeditions – a nonprofit program that was a process to help other combat veterans regain a positive perspective after combat.
“It’s like a reverse boot camp. They can regain their sense of peace, get a positive outlook, and touch on what is really important in life. It “reframes” their minds. Even decision-making is better, and they regain their purpose.”
The hikes can run anywhere from 3 months to 6 months, and occur in different parts of the United States. The magnificence of mountain landscapes, the quiet of the forests, the goodness of veteran-friendly people along the way…it changes lives.
Think about it – for the 20-22 veterans who give up every day, this program could have helped them decompress from the battles. They receive top quality equipment. They’ll have support from fellow service members and the community, as well as veteran organizations along the way. Re-supply boxes are shipped bi-weekly to them. It’s total support.
Comments from 2016 hikers reveal an impact of major value. This is only one of many:
Michael Maziarka hiked the Ice Age Trail in 2016. He noted,
“The hike gave me a chance to leave some of the emotions of the war along the trail. I definitely learned more about myself talking with other combat veterans. It’s help me unload some things that were on my mind that I hadn’t thought about or cared to think about before.”
Literally being on a long hike, being self-reliant yet with others, helps a combat veteran “press the reset button”… the chance to think about what really matters.
How it works
Sean told us that his organization coordinates community support for all of the trails and programs so that all who have experienced the worst in combat can start meeting supportive people that will help reinstate trust. That support includes lodging, transportation, food. They also stop every 3-5 days along he way in a town so they can clean up and re-supply. He said the longest stretch is 6-7 days on some trails.
Warrior Expeditions utilizes 8 hiking trails, one biking trail, and one paddle run. The hikes are provided at no cost to the participant, and they provide a $300 monthly stipend for the veteran to purchase resupply items along the way.
The hikes run simultaneously in different parts of the country.
The Hiking trails are:
Appalachian Trail 2,185 Miles long, crossing 14 states
Continental Divide Trail – 3,100 miles long, crossing 5 states
Pacific Crest Trail -2,650 miles, crossing 3 states
Arizona Trail- 800 miles, crosses the state of Arizona
Buckeye Trail – 1,400 miles crossing Ohio
Florida Trail- 1,200 Miles crossing Florida
Ice Age Trail – 1,200 Miles crossing Wisconsin
Mountains to Sea Trail- 1,200 Miles through North Carolina
The bike journey goes on the Trans-America Trail for 4,229 miles. The paddle venue goes the length of the Mississippi for 2,320 miles.
How do transitioning Military members get involved and what are the criteria? Go to their website at www.warriorexpeditions.org or email email@example.com. The application is at this link: Warrior Expeditions Application. The only criteria is that the veteran must have served in a combat zone and been honorably discharged. The 2017 season is closed, but selection for the 2018 season is in December.