U.S. military veterans have been “walking off the war” since the first person traversed the entire length of the Appalachian Trail in 1948.
Now, in 2015, four veterans will kayak the entire length (2,300 miles) of the Mississippi River between July 20 and Nov. 22. They will stop in Aitkin on Saturday, Aug. 15, for a rest.
In 1948, Earl Shaffer told a friend he was going to “walk off the war” to work out the sights, sounds and losses of World War II. Four months later, Shaffer became the first person to hike the entire length of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine.
Walk off the war
Following in Shaffer’s footsteps and in recognizing the therapeutic effects of long distance hiking, Warrior Hike created the “Walk Off The War” Program in 2012 which is designed to support combat veterans transitioning from their military service by hiking America’s National Scenic Trails.
The nonprofit, Warrior Hike, was founded by Sean Gobin, an Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran and Mark Silver, an Afghanistan war veteran. The two hiked the Appalachian Trail collecting donations along the way and donating the proceeds toward adaptive vehicles for amputee veterans.
By the time their hike ended on Mt. Katahdin in Maine, they had stopped at nearly 40 VFW posts and raised $48,500 for their cause.
Gobin’s organization is now reorganizing as “Warrior Expeditions,” because it includes the Warrior Hikes, Warrior Paddle and soon, Warrior Bike.
“Some veterans cannot hike but they can paddle or bike,” Gobin said.
This is the first Warrior Paddle in the program.
Four veterans are making this journey; two of them are from Minnesota. They are Bart Lindberg, Brainerd; Mark Fox, Eagan; Annie Balthazar, Fayetteville, W.V.; and Shawn Murphy, Auburn, Wash. Accompanying them will be Abby Kaeser, who is photographing the trip.
They will stop at 18 VFW posts during their trip. In Aitkin, they will stay in the rooms above the State Farm Insurance office. The public will have an opportunity to visit with the paddlers at VFW Post 1727 in Aitkin Aug. 15 between 5 and 6 p.m. A light lunch will be served at no cost.
VFW Commander Jeff Workman had never heard of these expeditions before. He said he favors any expedition that helps veterans readjust after combat roles.
Those who wish to make a donation to this nonprofit organization to help veterans may visit www.warriorhike.org.
Note: An ad in the Aug. 8 Bargain Hunter incorrectly said that this trip was a benefit for the Warrior Paddle “walk off the war” program. It is not.