Hiking the Appalachian Trail takes months, and includes its fair share of encounters with creatures of the wild such as bears and snakes.
But for a group of veterans of recent wars, hiking the trail means a time to heal and raise money for others to make the journey of hundreds of miles from Georgia to Maine.
On Sunday, vets affiliated with the Warrior Hike “Walk Off The War” program paused at Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company in Nelson County to receive a donation for their efforts. The $1,500 offered by Waynesboro VFW Post 2424 will go to help future vets hiking the trail.
“The whole purpose is to walk off the war,” said Adam Bautz, a Marine veteran from New York state who served two tours in Iraq. Bautz said he draws his inspiration from Earl Shaffer, who hiked the Appalachian Trail in 1948 after serving in World War II.
Steve Clendenning of Kokomo, Ind. was on duty with the Marines in Iraq in 2006 when a roadside bomb caused a traumatic brain injury and damaged his hearing. Clendenning, a Purple Heart recipient, said it is important for veterans to ease back into American society after they have served in war, no matter how long their service was. He and his comrades began the trail hike in Georgia in March, and will finish three months from now in Maine.
He describes serving in the war and hiking the trail as “two different stresses.” The vets have seen large rattlesnakes, black bears and other wildlife on their journey. They travel as much as 25 miles in a day.
Warrior Hike was founded in 2011 by Marine Corps captains Mark Silvers and Sean Gobin. Gobin said the initial hike by he and Silvers raised $50,000 to purchase three adaptive vehicles for wounded vets.
The Waynesboro VFW Post 2424 donation was offered Sunday by Bob Quinn, the post’s service officer. Quinn described the efforts of the hiking vets as “great.” “They are raising money for wounded vets,” he said.
Quinn said the VFW post’s donation was the result of recent strong buddy poppy sales by Post 2424. “We had a pretty good turnout,” he said.
Distributed by MCT Information Services