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Jul 24 2013

Dutchess County Welcomes Warrior Hikers Returning Combat Vets Hike the Appalachian Trail to “Walk Off the War”

Dutchess County Welcomes Warrior Hikers

Returning Combat Vets Hike the Appalachian Trail to “Walk Off the War”

Pawling, NY - Dozens of members of the Dutchess County community were on hand to officially welcome seven combat veterans, and celebrate the hikers’ completion of approximately 1,400 miles of their 2,186-mile trek on the Appalachian Trail – from Georgia to Maine – in a symbolic journey to transition back to civilian life.

Assemblyman Kieran Lalor; Town Supervisors: David Kelly from Pawling and Ryan Courtien from Dover; Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro’s and Congressman Chris Gibson’s representatives; Mary Kay Vrba from Dutchess County Tourism; Stancy DuHamel and Peter Muroski of the Harlem Valley Appalachian Trail Community (HVATC); veterans from American Legion Posts 1949 and 215, and Veterans of Foreign War (VFW) Post 5444; and Pawling and Dover Boy and Girl Scouts greeted the Warrior Hikers as they arrived in Pawling to recognize their service to our Country, and support them as they reconnect with home.

“On behalf of Dutchess County, thank you for your service and the sacrifice you made for our Country. We welcome your return, and are grateful that, because of you, our Country is safer,” said County Executive Marc Molinaro. “We stand ready to now serve you, through our Division of Veterans Services to ensure you receive the benefits and entitlements you have earned through your dedicated service.”

Hailing from hometowns across the Country, the veterans are hiking the Appalachian Trail following the same therapeutic journey taken in 1948 by Earl Shaffer, a World War II veteran who told a friend he was going to “walk off the war” to work out the sights, sounds, and losses he experienced during the war. Four months later, Shaffer became the first person to hike the entire length of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine.

Since 2001, more than 2.3 million veterans have returned home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and for many, the transition is difficult: the Department of Veterans Affairs states that more than 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Following the press conference, the hikers were joined by members of the American Legion Posts 1949 (Dover) and 215 (Pawling), the VFW Post 5444 (Wingdale), the Scouts and other well-wishers, and continued another mile and a half on the Appalachian Trail to Wingnut Farm for an old-fashioned community barbeque.

“Walking the Trail can be transformative, and the Harlem Valley Appalachian Trail Community is proud to be part of the Warrior Hike program, supporting our returning veterans as they transition from combat to civilian life,” said Ryan Courtien, Supervisor of the Town of Dover and HVATC member. “We welcome them, and wish them well.”

“From the local chapters of the veterans of the American Legion, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, to local businesses and residents — the Pawling-Dover community came together to greet the Warrior Hikers, express our thanks for their service, and welcome them back home,” said David Kelly, Supervisor of the Town Pawling and HVATC member.

“We are pleased to co-sponsor this event with the newly designated Appalachian Trail Community™ of the Towns of Dover and Pawling,” said Mary Kay Vrba, Executive Director of Dutchess County Tourism.

The Warrior Hikers will return to the Trail tomorrow and are expected to reach the northern terminus of Mount Katahdin, near Millinocket, Maine on September 13.

For more information:
About the Warrior Hikers visit: http://warriorhike.com/
About Dutchess County Tourism visit: www.dutchesstourism.com
About the Harlem Valley A.T. Community, visit: https://www.facebook.com/HarlemValleyAppalachianTrailCommunity
About Appalachian Trail Communities visit: www.appalachiantrail.org/atcommunity
About the Appalachian Trail Conservancy visit: www.appalachiantrail.org

This event is sponsored by Dutchess County Tourism and the Harlem Valley Appalachian Trail Community, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and the Warrior Hike Program.

Contributors include: American Legion Posts 1949 and 215, VFW Post 5444, Pawling and Dover Girl and Boy Scouts, Wholey Oats, Dykemans, Utter Brothers, Continental Organics, Madava Farms Crown Maple, Trinity-Pawling Student Garden, Trinity-Pawling School, Growing Heart Farms, Hannaford, Town of Pawling, Town of Dover, the Pawling Fire Department, Pawling Beer & Soda, Native Landscapes, Wingnut Farm and Arch Street Communications.