DNR Celebrates “Walk Off the War” Veterans as they Hike through Washington Monument State Park
The Department of Natural Resources’ Maryland Park Service hosted veterans participating in the Warrior Hike Walk Off The War program as they journeyed through Maryland’s portion of the legendary Appalachian Trail on June 12 at Washington Monument State Park. Park staff greeted the hikers with a much-appreciated potluck dinner organized by Christina Holden, Veteran Outreach Manager for the Maryland Park Service. Maryland Veterans Affairs Secretary Edward Chow, park staff and volunteers, and representatives from the Warrior Hike also joined in the celebration.
“On behalf of the entire Department and the State of Maryland, we salute the selfless men and women who protect and serve our country,” said DNR Secretary Joe Gill. “We are humbled by the opportunity to provide these hikers a warm welcome and much-needed respite as they journey through Maryland along the Appalachian Trail.”
The Walk Off the War Program pays homage to Earl Shaffer. In 1948, 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.
Recognizing the physical, mental, and spiritual benefits of long-distance hiking, Warrior Hike partnered with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy to create Walk Off The War. This outdoor therapy program supports combat veterans transitioning from their military service by hiking all 2,185 miles of the Appalachian Trail.
The program provides participating combat veterans with the equipment and supplies required to complete a six-month thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail; coordinates trail town support in the forms of transportation, food, and lodging with veteran organizations and community groups located along the trail; and assists veterans with future employment opportunities through the program’s numerous 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, 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.”
For more information about the Maryland Park Service’s Wounded Warrior and Veteran Outreach program, visit dnr2.maryland.gov/publiclands/Pages/armed_forces.aspx