Veterans hit the trail on Warrior Hike seeking peace

Martin Strange, left, with hiking partner Sterling Deck at the head of the trail outside Cincinnati. (Photo provided by Martin Strange)

By DAVID DUPONT

BG Independent News

A Bowling Green native has embarked on a long-haul hike intended to help military veterans walk off the war.

Marine veteran Martin Strange, 32, started his Warrior Expedition last week. With hiking partner, Army veteran Sterling Deck, Strange will circumnavigate the state of Ohio, taking about three months to cover the 1,444 miles.

Warrior Expeditions was started about four years ago by Sean Gobin. After deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, Gobin set out to walk the 2,185 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Strange said Gobin gained so much from the experience he founded Warrior Expeditions to offer the same experience to other veterans. There are options for hiking, paddling and bicycling.

In trekking the Appalachian Trail, he was following the footsteps of a veteran of an older generation. Coming home from World War II, Earl Shaffer became the first person to hike the length of the trail.

Strange served four years in the U.S. Marines as a machine gunner. The Bowling Green High graduate enlisted at 21. “I felt life had my back to the wall,” he said. This was his way “to push back and jump off a cliff and see what happens. That’s what the Marine Corps infantry was to me.”

Strange was deployed twice to Iraq. When he was discharged in 2009, he went on and served as security for the State Department, working in Kabul, Afghanistan.

“I’m a completely different person from when I joined up,” Strange said. “And grown since I got out.”

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Strange, son of former BG residents Carney and Dorothyann Strange, went on to study wildlife management at Hocking College, but that lost its appeal after a few years.

He was drawn to the Warrior Hike by his love of outdoors. Even before starting the long hike, he’d spent three months sleeping in his hammock, homeless by choice, he said. “Certainly not destitute.”

Gobin interviewed Strange over Skype to see if he was right for the adventure. He and Deck were paired up. They’d never met before starting out.

The program provides the participants with all the gear they need, food to start out and a stipend to purchase more along the trail. Some areas are remote, but generally the trail in never more than a few miles from a town. Strange said that a conservative estimate on the cost of the trip would be well over $3,000.

Strange and Deck headed north out of Cincinnati, moving clockwise around Ohio. They are the first Warrior Hikers to take this Ohio route. “We’re Guinea pigs.” The schedule calls for them to be in Bowling Green on July 30, but that could vary. Carrying about 30 pounds, they expect to hike 10 to 17 miles a day. But there’s some flexibility so they may take a day off while in Bowling Green, he said.

The hike, Strange said, “helps get an outside perspective.” After being out for a few years he’s started to adjust to civilian life and realizing “I don’t have to be in a Marine mindset 24-7.”

“I’m still working on that,” Strange said. The hike will “give me the time to sit back and think, and that’s what a lot of guys don’t get a chance to do. We get out and we’re going 100 miles an hour. We get a job or go to school, and we never process those events.”

(For more information on Warrior Expeditions, visit: https://warriorexpeditions.org/)

 

 

 

 

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