Brittney Burns – Staff Writer
After hiking all 2,185 miles of the Appalachian Trail, when he returned home from deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan in 2012, Sean Gobin gained clarity and support that he wanted to extend to veterans across the country, leading him to establish Warrior Expeditions. Gobin took the therapeutic effects he experienced first hand doing his long distance 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.
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.
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 of 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.
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.
The 2017 class of Warrior Hikers left Springer Mountain last week and are scheduled to stop in Franklin on March 28 with a dinner scheduled at the American Legion Post at 6 p.m. The community is invited and encouraged to attend. The group includes 10 veterans, hailing from seven different states, who have served in Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Afghanistan and represent the Army, Navy, and the Marines.
Joseph Core served in the United States Army as an Armor Crewman from 1993-2016 with deployments to Iraq. Core’s hometown is Lewisberry, Pa.
Wesley DeMauro is from New York, N.Y., and served in the United States Army as a Military Police. DeMauro served from 2000-2008 and was deployed to Afghanistan.
Justin Jay is from Evans, Ga., and provided health services while serving in the United States Army from 2012-2016. During his tenure with the military, Jay was deployed to Afghanistan.
Manuela Jay is from Berikon, Switzerland and also served in health services of the Army from 2012-2016 in Afghanistan.
Sylvia King was deployed to Somalia serving as a member of the Military Police for the United States Army from 1982-2003. King is from Flagstaff, Ariz.
Joseph Lombardo served in the United States Marines Corps as an Armor Crewman from 2007-2012 and was deployed to Afghanistan. Lombardo is from Edison, N.J.
Jeremy Pease is from Angola, Ind., and served as a Wheeled Vehicle Mechanic in the United States Army. Pease was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and served from 2002-2014.
Jacquelyn Roberto is from Liberty, N.C., and served in the United States Navy as a Cryptologic Technician from 2003-2012 and was deployed to Afghanistan.
Samuel Rosales served in the United States Marine Corps as an Intelligence Officer from 1009-2016. Rosales is from Covington, Ga., and was deployed to Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
Matthew Weitz is from Rising Fawn, Ga., and served in the Army as an Infantryman from 2003-2009. Weitz was deployed to Iraq.