Sean Gobin knows the unique stress of war.
After enlisting in the Marine Corps in 1994, Gobin served as a platoon commander in Iraq in 2003 and 2005. In 2011, he served in Afghanistan, helping to train Afghan National Security Forces.
Then he came home, and shortly thereafter decided to walk from Georgia to Maine on the Appalachian Trail.
“Initially, I was hiking the Appalachian Trail because it had always been a dream of mine,” Gobin said. “Then about two-thirds of the way up the trail, I realized that long-distance hiking would be a great way for veterans to transition from their wartime experiences.”
With the help of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Gobin devised a framework for a program to help returning veterans “walk off the war” by providing them with all of the equipment, support and logistical help they would need to conduct a long hike, and then assistance with job placement opportunities after the hike.
Gobin’s organization, Warrior Hike, found a receptive community, and more than 70 veterans have participated in a long “thru-hike” with the program.
Gobin was recently named a 2015 Top 10 CNN Hero and nominated for the CNN Hero of the Year award.
“It’s been crazy. The reach of the CNN story is far and wide,” Gobin said.
Gobin says participants typically highlight three major themes as particularly impactful:
- Decompressing from their military service and coming to terms with wartime experiences.
- Experiencing their journey with the camaraderie of other veterans who understand the challenges of transitioning from military service to civilian life.
- Interacting with communities along the trail, which facilitates their reintegration into society, helps restore their faith in humanity and builds a network of life-long friendships.
While much of the Appalachian Trail is referred to as a “long green tunnel” due to the dense tree cover, Gobin said the expansive views afforded by the Shenandoah National Park proved to be his favorite part of the trail.
If Gobin wins the “Hero of The Year” honor, he’ll also take home a $100,000 prize, which he says would be enormously useful to his organization.
CNN is accepting votes for Hero of The Year online through 15 November, and will announce the winner on 6 December.
Thanks to Dave Hendrick : http://www.darden.virginia.edu/news/2015/emba-sean-gobin-hero-award/
Go here to vote for your hero: http://heroes.cnn.com/#.gd6zFCrOhb5
Cover image courtesy of Sean Gobin