Warrior Hike started out as the ultimate dream vacation after college graduation for Sean Gobin. He had always wanted to hike the entire length of the Appalachian Trail. It wasn't a whim, he had even done his research and knew what kind of a commitment of time, equipment and money it would involve.
What better way to celebrate his graduation from college? Right? Wrong....unfortunately the Marine Corps had other ideas for Sean. So, a few years have passed (10), but that dream of Sean's will begin in just under 2 months time and here is how.
Captain Sean Gobin has just recently returned from a deployment in Afghanistan. While over there, he had plenty of time over breakfast to talk about hiking the Appalachian Trail with his good friend Captain Mark Silvers. So they began planning out the trip and Captain Silvers said something like Hey, why not turn this into something more than "just" a hike? Why not make it a fundraiser for wounded veterans? Over the next few months, Mark and Sean ironed out the details, established the goals of the hike, garnered support, and prepared Warrior Hike’ strategy.
This "hike" itself entails walking 2178 miles of trail starting at Springer Mountain, Georgia and finishing at Mount Katahdin, Maine. The rangers will tell you that a hike of this length would take the average person 6 months to complete. Please remember we ARE talking about Marines here! Sean and Mark figured by averaging 18 miles a day they could complete the hike in 4 1/2 months......none of this 6 months lollygagging around for them!
Ahhh but there is more. Along the way Sean and Mark will be stopping at various VFW's, 39 to be exact, to talk about their hike and raise funds. They are looking to engage the various local businesses along the route to help in their fundraising quest.
In order to stay in touch with people, they will be using their smart phones to coordinate events with the media and local organizations such as the Fire/Police/Rescue Departments (not for emergencies) as well as local newspaper/TV/Radio stations ahead of time to spread the word. They are hoping to encourage JROTC Units, Boy Scouts troops (hey don't forget about the Girl Scouts), church groups and other community leaders like the Mayor, City Council members, etc. to attend their VFW events.
Originally they planned on paying for all of their equipment costs (food, boots, camping gear, water purification tablets, etc.) on their own. That would be their personal stake to the fundraiser. Well that sort of went out the window to some degree, thanks to a generous company. Mountain House has agreed to sponsor them and will be furnishing them with high quality freeze dried meals. Yes, I say high quality because I have used their products before! Good stuff there!
In order to resupply, they have family members who will be mailing food and other supplies to them at pre-arranged locations, i.e. local VFW's and post offices along the route. They will need approximately 4 pairs of boots. Once their initial pair of boots starts to wear down, they will then call in an order for another pair to be mailed out and picked up along the route.
But enough about the logistics of the hike, what is this fundraising all about?
Sean and Mark checked out various charitable organizations, thinking they would hook up with a non-profit group. This seemed the simplest way to get a donation site/link set up for people to use. After much searching they have decided to align with Wounded Warrior Regiment and Operation Military Embrace (OME).
Wounded Warrior Regiment will assist Sean and Mark in identifying wounded Marines who will be receiving a vehicle. Operation Military Embrace (OME) contacted Mark and Sean saying they would provide a fundraising link, a bank account and the use of their non-profit status. [That way every single penny of every dollar raised will go to a wounded Marine.]
You are probably thinking (like I did) that they are really reaching for the stars here. Those vehicles cost plenty of bucks. Something I didn't know is that the VA will provide [per Ride-Away website] a one-time $18,900 grant towards a vehicle for 100% service disabled veterans. There is a gap of about $10,000 between what the VA provides in a grant and what an adaptive vehicle costs. This is where you and other members of our communities come into play.
Sean and Mark are hoping to raise enough money to supply not just one vehicle for a Marine but multiple vehicles for multiple Marines by the time their Warrior Hike has ended. As each $10,000 mile marker is hit, they will begin the process of getting a vehicle customized and ready for delivery to a Marine within the Wounded Warrior Regiment.
Somehow I don't see how these two Marines will end up with only enough money for one vehicle at the end of their hike. I have seen their presentation on how they will be making this Warrior Hike happen. I have spoken to Sean at length. I heard the excitement in his voice, the determination to make a difference in the lives of others. It is not like he and Mark haven't already done that with their service to our country! Even better? If you would like to join up and hike along with Sean and Mark.....YOU CAN!! I will tell you how you can do that in a bit.
You have, what I feel is a rather unique opportunity to actually see where your donation $$'s are going to. For instance, if you were to make a donation that fell within the first $10,000 raised, there will be photos of that vehicle your donation helped buy! Now how cool is that? You could then say, "I was a part of helping with the fundraising that bought a van for a wounded veteran!"
Imagine if a towns' business leaders got together and raised $10,000 for this effort. That town would have the pride of saying "The people of our town came together and helped buy a veteran an adaptive vehicle. We gave this wounded veteran back some of his freedom to move about."
That is important to Sean and Mark. They didn't want the money they will be raising to get dumped into a large account and be disbursed for multiple items/events. They wanted a tangible end product that they could see. That they could say, "Hey look at this van we were able to get with your donation $$'s for this veteran!”
Working with the Wounded Warrior Regiment Mark and Sean will be presenting grants for these vehicles (yes I said vehicles) at Quantico, Virginia. I have faith that they will be providing not one but multiple vehicles by the time this hike is done and all the donations have come in.
Are you interested in following Mark and Sean? Then simply check out their Facebook page where updates will be posted. Sean was quite sure there would be unexpected happenings that would be captured on video to be posted to the site.
It could be something as simple as watching them try to start a fire, again and again. Yes, it happens to the best of us and usually at the worst of times. Or maybe you will get to see some of the people they meet and hike with. What does their campsite look like?
I mentioned earlier that you might have an opportunity to hike along with Mark and Sean. Sean suggested you might arrange to meet up with them at the nearest VFW event. You can reach them by email here. They would love to have veterans to walk alongside of as they progress along the Appalachian Trail on their Warrior Hike.
Check out their Hike Schedule calendar showing where and when they will be at a specific VFW. They have an excellent, detailed map showing their route. Consider this if you are involved with or belong to a Scout troop. There is a great deal of potential here. You could easily work a service project around this Warrior Hike.
Warrior Hike's Mission is simple.
"Hike the Appalachian Trail to increase awareness and raise donations for wounded veterans."
Warrior Hike embodies the true spirit of giving! Sean and Mark could quite easily have "just hiked" the Appalachian Trail, all 2178 miles of it. End of story!
Instead Sean and Mark have elected to spend 4 1/2 months hiking for a purpose greater than themselves. To help wounded warriors! That is the bottom line here....helping others!
Donations can be made online or, mail a check made out to "Operation Military Embrace, Inc." to:
Operation Military Embrace, Inc.
ATTN: Warrior Hike
P.O. Box 149
Hockley, Texas 77447-0149