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MILLINOCKET, MAINE — After six months, four veterans have completed their hike of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine, ending with a celebration at the summit of Mount Katahdin.
The 2,185-mile Warrior Hike, called “Walk Off The War,” gives veterans a chance to process their wartime experiences while hiking with others who have been through the same thing. It is designed to help them transition from military to civilian life.
“They are changed people,” Marine Corps Capt. Sean Gobin said Saturday of the veterans who completed the hike.
Gobin founded Warrior Hike while deployed to Afghanistan. In 2012, he hiked the trail to support wounded veterans and realized it would beneficial for other veterans, too.
“First and foremost is that you’re just out in nature and you’re hiking for eight hours a day,” said Gobin, who joined the veterans for their final hike up Katahdin. “And being by yourself with your own thoughts and being outside in the mountains, your brain has no other option but to process all those experiences that you had overseas.”
Fourteen started the hike in Georgia; four finished and two others who left the trail returned on Friday for the final hike and celebration. They planned to gather at the American Legion Post 80 in Millinocket for a barbecue Saturday night.
Local veterans and community groups along the trail offered support by transporting the hikers to and from the trail, putting them up for the night in lodges and at their homes and taking them out to dinner, Gobin said.
“So to see the outpouring of support from the American people is also a therapeutic part of it,” he said.
Hiking the trail forces these veterans, some of whom may be suffering from post-traumatic stress and feeling isolated, to socialize.
“And what it does is it reconfirms your belief in humanity, that there’s good people out there and despite what you’ve experienced there’s a lot of good out there,” he said.