PAWLING, NY – Seven “Warrior Hikers” thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail from south to north, stopped at Native Plant Nursery & Landscaping in eastern Dutchess County Monday to be greeted and celebrated by 100 residents, officials, and Trail Conference representatives. Local veterans, Boy and Girl Scouts, officials, Trail volunteers, and community supporters lined the Trail and applauded the thru-hikers as they passed by a Color Guard welcome near the Trail’s Metro-North station along Route 22.
The event was the first hosted by the newly designated Harlem Valley Appalachian Trail Community of Dover and Pawling townships, and demonstrated the community’s enthusiastic support of the Appalachian Trail.
The hikers are veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan “walking off the war” for up to six months along the 2,180 mile Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. They are following in the steps of the Trail’s very first thru-hiker, Earl Shaffer, a World War II veteran who in 1948 hiked the trail end to end to work out the sights, sounds, and losses he experienced during the war.
Warrior Hike is a nonprofit that supports veterans who walk the Appalachian Trail as a way to transition back to civilian life from active duty service. Participants must have served in a combat zone and been honorably discharged, said Warrior Hike program founder Sean Gobin, a Marine Corp. veteran. You can follow the progress of the 2013 Warrior Hikers on Facebook: facebook.com/warriorhike
Update Sept. 22: Veterans finish Warrior Hike on AT