Marines hike Appalachian Trail

Mark Silvers, left, shakes hands with WWII veteran Pat Murphy.

There's a warrior Sean Gobin knows who lost both his legs from an improvised explosive device.

It is a memory Gobin packs with his gear on the long march north from Georgia to Maine on the Appalachian Trail.

“I think of him often,” the former Marine Corps captain said of his friend. “He’s in rehab now.”

With every step taken, Gobin is living the dream of hiking the 2,180-mile pathway over rugged terrain.

Mile after mile, this veteran of Afghanistan edges closer to completing the mission of walking the entire length to raise money and awareness for the plight of wounded warriors.

Like Gobin, Mark Silvers is a former Marine captain who left the service this spring and is undergoing the transition to civilian life in preparation for graduate school this fall.

The two officers have launched a non-profit effort to help purchase adaptive vehicles for returning veterans who have suffered multiple amputations during combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Since starting the trail in mid-March, Gobin and Silvers have raised an estimated $14,000. Both men had a stopover in Boiling Springs Thursday night where they were greeted by members of VFW Post 8851 and the Lewis B. Puller Jr. Detachment 524 of the Marine Corps League.

“We are here to show support,” said Eric Fussenegger, vice commandant of Marine Corps League District 6. “We just want to get the word out.” The local detachment and Military Order of the Devil Dogs donated $400 to Warrior Hike.

‘Great opportunity’

All told, Gobin and Silvers will participate in 38 separate fund-raising events at VFW Posts along the trail from March 15 to their finish date of July 29. They ate a meal at Post 8851 where they briefed fellow veterans on their mission. The post also donated $250 towards the effort.

“Warrior Hike is a great opportunity to raise awareness of what is going on in today’s military,” said Bill Hartman, post commander. “These men and women come home, but they are not whole.”

Both men met while assigned to the same armored unit at Camp Lejuene. Goblin was a Marine captain in charge of a battalion while Silvers was a lieutenant and his executive officer. The men developed a friendship and agreed to hike the Appalachian Trail on the condition they do it for charity.

In looking around for a worthy cause, both men wanted to do something to help wounded warriors returning stateside from central Asia. Silver explained how the Veterans Administration has a program where it awards grants so disabled veterans could purchase adaptive vehicles. But the grants do not cover the entire cost.

“We will cover the difference so a veteran can get a vehicle at no cost,” Silvers said. He added Warrior Hike is working with a nonprofit organization out of Quantico, Va., to identify a needy veteran.

Marine Corps training helped Gobin and Silvers prepare for the rigors of hiking the Appalachian Trail for up to 20 miles day after day. While the first couple weeks were difficult, Gobin said, their bodies gradually got used to the constant travel and now it is relatively easy going.

Like a military operation, hiking the Appalachian Trail can be a logistical challenge, Silvers said. He explained how he recruited his mother to help with the coordination so they can stay on schedule and meet daily mileage goals.

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