Veterans 'walk off the war' - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Veterans 'walk off the war'

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Thomas Gathman, 30, leaves a Hanover, N.H., hotel and hops back on the trail, the Appalachian Trail that is. You may not know it, but trail markers for the AT blaze right through downtown.

"We've hiked over 1,700 miles so far. We have just under 500 miles to go," said Thomas Gathman, a Marine. "I couldn't be happier personally. I am having one of the greatest walks of my life."

Gathman is one of 14 veterans taking part in this year's Warrior Hike. The program started last year to raise money for wounded veterans. This year, the focus changed to help veterans "walk off the war."

The Appalachian Trail begins in Georgia and heads north up the East Coast to Maine. It's approximately 2,200-miles long, which gives any through-hiker a lot of time to think.

"Kind of just come to terms with some things that you see or experienced or things you may have had to do," Gathman said. "You get plenty of time to think about those things."

Like the hardships of the battlefield, watching fellow soldiers suffer; scars that last long after the combat is over. "Walking off the war" is designed to help soldiers like Gathman reintegrate back into their old lives.

"Whether it is just life on the homefront or their own personal issues that they have encountered with combat, it's for all of it," Gathman said.

And you never know who you might meet along the trail. On this day-- by chance-- former Dartmouth College President James Wright.

"They want to forget, but they also know that they can't forget. And they just want to figure out how to deal with that," Wright said.

Wright is a former Marine himself and an advocate for wounded soldiers, visiting Walter Reed Medical Center on several occasions. Wright says that issue surrounding veterans need to be highlighted.

"Occasions like this provide opportunities to call all of our attention to it, as well as to provide an opportunity for veterans themselves to have a wonderful walk along a great trail," Wright said.

"The goal is to get veterans out on the trail and to provide them with a haven for stuff they have seen of done," Gathman said.

A trail that cuts right through our region. And this year, one that's helping soldiers find peace along the way.

Click here for more information about the Warrior Hike.

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