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, Earl Shaffer became the first person to hike the entire length of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine.
Following in Earl Shaffer’s footsteps and in recognizing the therapeutic effects of long distance outdoor expeditions, Warrior Expeditions created the Warrior Hike, Warrior Bike, and Warrior Paddle programs which are designed to help combat veterans transition from their military service.
Now, two hikers from the Warrior Expeditions are coming to Portsmouth. The Warriors Expedition is a group that is in the process of hiking the 1,400 mile Buckeye Trail and two of the hikers will be picked up in Portsmouth by members of American Legion Post 471 on Oct. 1.
The hikers are Sterling Beck, of Hamilton, Ohio, who was in Iraq and Martin Strange, of Kent, Ohio, who was also deployed to Iraq.
“On the weekend, wherever they think they’re going to be they make goals to get to each different city,” Peggy Davis of Post 471 said. “They requested that Post 471 sponsor them if we could and we said, of course, absolutely. We are going to pick them up and get them to their lodging,”
The lodging is the result of multiple donations from people in the community.
“The post has set up a picnic for Saturday (Oct. 1) and the post has a steak dinner on Saturday night, so they’ll also have their dinner,” Peggy Davis said. “They’ll be able to meet and greet with some of the other veterans in town.”
The members of Post 471 will mingle with the hikers and share experiences with them.
“It’s about camaraderie,” Tom Davis, Adjutant for Post 471 said. “These guys that are doing the hike are young and recently discharged veterans and for the most part the American Legion is a group of veterans that have been out for a period of time and it’s a camaraderie thing to share experiences and let them (hikers) know there are other people in the community that have been in similar circumstances and understand where they are and where they’ve been.”
Peggy Davis said there is one central theme in welcoming the hikers before dropping them off on Sunday to continue their trek.
“We just want to meet with them and tell them how we fell about them and say ‘hey we’re proud of you and thank you for everything you’ve done,’” Peggy Davis said.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.