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2021 Warrior Hikers leave Springer Mountain set for Maine

With more than 2.5 million veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, and the Department of Veteran Affairs reporting that 20 percent of these veterans suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, soldiers may not always have the opportunity to transition from their experiences.

Sean Gobin gained clarity and support that he wanted to extend to veterans across the country after hiking all 2,185 miles of the Appalachian Trail when he returned home from deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan in 2012, leading him to establish Warrior Expeditions. Gobin took the therapeutic effects he experienced firsthand on his thru-hike of the AT, to develop a network of experiences across the country to support combat veterans’ transition from their military service back into civilian life.

Each year, the Warrior Hikers conquering the Appalachian Trail are welcomed to Franklin by the American Legion Post 108 and VFW Post 7739. Gobin organizes weekly trail town stops throughout the more than 2,000 miles of the AT, where locals give the hikers a hot meal and a chance to take a shower and sleep in a real bed.

Warrior Expeditions provides veterans around the country the chance to disconnect from the stress of everyday life and to immerse themselves in nature and to “walk off the war.”

Gobin’s decision to hike the trail wasn’t the first time a veteran found solace on the trail. Earl Shaffer, who in 1948, told a friend he was going to “walk off the war” after World War II, finished the hike four months later to become the first person to hike the entire length of the AT from Georgia to Maine. Since its inception, Warrior Expeditions has grown to include the Warrior Hike which follows trails all over the United States, the Warrior Bike, and Warrior Paddle programs, all geared toward helping combat veterans return home.

The 2021 class of Warrior Hikers left Springer Mountain last week and are making their way toward Franklin. The group includes nine veterans, hailing from eight different states, who have served in Kuwait, Djibouti, Saudia Arabia, Bostania, Syria, the Persian Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan and represent the Army, Air Force, and the Marines. This year’s class of veterans features two North Carolina residents, Michael Coleman from Fayetteville and Donald Downey from Jacksonville, NC. 

Appalachian Trail Veterans

Name: Elizabeth Barlow

Hometown: Whiteland, IN

Branch: United States Army

MOS: Journalist

Service: 2012-2020

Deployments: Kuwait, Syria, Iraq

Name: Benjamin Blume

Hometown: Houston, TX

Branch: United States Army

MOS: Infantryman

Service: 2010-2016

Deployments: Afghanistan

Name: Michael Coleman

Hometown: Fayetteville, NC

Branch: United States Army

MOS: Chaplain

Service: 2011-2019

Deployments: Afghanistan, Iraq

Name: Donald Downey

Hometown: Jacksonville, NC

Branch: United States Marine Corps

MOS: Light Armored Vehicle Marine

Service: 1984-2017

Deployments: Saudi Arabia, Iraq

Name: Edgar Marquis

Hometown: Hudson, FL

Branch: United States Army

MOS: Information Services Technician

Service: 1978-2015

Deployments: Saudi Arabia, Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan

Name: Amity Quinones

Hometown: Tampa, FL

Branch: United States Air Force

MOS: Intelligence Analyst

Service: 2003-2020

Deployments: Djibouti, Iraq, Afghanistan

Name: Emerald Ralston

Hometown: Waterloo, IA

Branch: United States Air Force

MOS: Public Affairs

Service: 2005-2010

Deployments: Afghanistan

Name: John Reardon

Hometown: Youngstown, OH

Branch: United States Army

MOS: Infantryman

Service: 2013-2019

Deployments: Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria

Name: Shannon Shaver

Hometown: Mound, MN

Branch: United States Army

MOS: Financial Management Technician

Service: 2000-2009

Deployments: Bosnia, Iraq

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