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Vets visit Pagosa while ‘Walking Off The War’

Six veterans, each hiking the 3,100-mile Continental Divide Trail over a six-month period, will be making a stop in Pagosa Springs Saturday, May 31, to partake in a potluck and spend the night.

The veterans — Andrew Brennan, Ricky Davis, Thomas Gathman, Shawn Murphy, Christopher Rickert and Robert Voorhis — are hiking the trail as part of the Warrior Hike “Walk Off The War” Program.

The six will be welcomed to Pagosa Country by veterans of the Mullins-Nickerson American Legion Post 108, where they will take part in a potluck dinner from 6-8 p.m.

That potluck is open to anyone wishing to meet the veteran hikers, hear their stories and support their journey.

Anyone planning to attend is asked to bring a dish or a side that will feed six people.

For more information about the potluck, contact David Lopez at 731-8448 or wants2go2ps@aol.com.

Warrior Hike
The veterans are trekking across the country as part of the Warrior Hike — a nonprofit outdoor therapy program that supports veterans transitioning away from their military service through hiking the America’s scenic trails.

According to a press release,

“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.”

In honor of Shaffer, Warrior Hike partnered with the Continental Divide Trail Coalition to create the “Walk Off The War” program.

The program provides participating combat veterans with the equipment and supplies needed to complete the six-month hike; coordinates with towns and cities along the trail to provide support in the forms of transportation, food and lodging; and assists veterans with future employment opportunities through the program’s partners and sponsors.

“Hiking over 2,000 miles during the course of six months really gives a veteran an opportunity to decompress and come to terms with their wartime experiences,” said Warrior Hike Executive Director Sean Gobin, also a former Marine Corps captain. “Additionally, the camaraderie that is shared between our combat veterans and the trail town communities help facilitate their integration back into society.”

The Continental Divide Trail was established by Congress in 1978 and spans 3,100 miles between Canada and Mexico, traversing five states.

The veterans
Brennan, from Pittsburgh, Pa., was commissioned in the United States Army in 2008 as a Black Hawk helicopter pilot. In 2010, Brennan deployed to Afghanistan with the 10th Mountain Division. After hiking the Continental Divide Trail, he plans to earn his master’s degree in business administration.

Davis, originally from Jacksonville, N.C., enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 2003 as an infantry machine gunner. Davis deployed to Iraq in 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2008, and deployed to Afghanistan in 2010, all with the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment. Davis currently lives in Carolina Beach, N.C. and has plans of working with veteran outreach programs in the future.

Gathman, originally from Lewisburg, Pa., enlisted in the Marines in 2006 as an infantry rifleman. In 2007 and 2008, he deployed to Iraq with the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment. Following the Warrior Hike, Gathman, who lives in State College, Pa., plans to continue working in the outdoor industry.

Murphy, originally from Toledo, Ohio, enlisted in the Army as a military policeman. In 1985, he deployed to Korea with the 2nd Infantry Division. Murphy currently lives in Auburn, Wash., and plans to hike the Appalachian Trail in 2015.

Rickert, originally from New Holland, Pa., enlisted in the Marines in 2008 as an infantry assaultman. He deployed to Afghanistan in 2009 and 2011 with the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment. Currently living in Narvon, Pa., Rickert plans to work as a park ranger in the future.

Voorhis is originally from Chenango Forks, N.Y., and enlisted in the Marines in 2005 as an electronic intelligence intercept operator. In 2009, he deployed to Afghanistan with the 3rd Radio Battalion. Voorhis currently lives in Reston, Va., and plans to work with either the national park or wildlife management services in the future.

This story was posted on May 29, 2014.