Local veteran walking the Appalachian Trail

UNDATED — A Lewisburg man is one of 14 veterans who are trying to “Walk off the War.”  Thomas Gathman served with the United States Marine Corp and did combat tours in Iraq.

After coming home, he got connected with Warrior Hike, a program where combat veterans walk the Appalachian Trail.  “We are out here getting support and fundraising for next year’s veteran hikers.  It is really an awesome experience,” says Gathman.  “Six months and 2,189 miles.”

Warrior Hike is designed to support veterans transitioning from their military services, walking off the sights and sounds of combat.  “It is rejuvenating and relaxing to be out around nature and around other people who want to be there too.  It is therapeutic in a lot of different ways and for a lot of different reasons.”

Though Gathman considers himself a strong hiker, he says there are ups and downs of the six month journey.  “You wake up in the morning and your feet and knees and ankles just feel destroyed.  It takes a few miles to keep going.  I only look at it one day at a time though,” says Gathman, “If you look too far ahead it gets discouraging.  So, we just go day to day.”

The journey started in March in Georgia.  Friday is when the group hopes to be at the end.  “The end is Mount Katahdin in Maine.  We have to walk through the 100 mile wilderness to get there.”

So what’s next for Gathman?  “Well actually, I plan to do Warrior Hike again next year out West on the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada through the Sierra Nevada Mountains.”

Gathman says this experience has been once in a lifetime, saying he knows his life will be changed forever because of it.  You can follow the hikers’ route and learn more about the annual walk here. (Sara Bartlett)

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