SURF CITY, NC (WWAY)– A hike to help veterans heal after the war is coming right here to North Carolina.
Walk Off the War started two years ago on the Appalachian Trail to support veterans transition from their service to life back at home.
The president of the North Carolina chapter is Sharon Smith or “mama goose” on the trail. Smith is preparing for another 1,150 miles. Another 1,150 miles to walk off the war.
“I was 23 years old and a combat medic,” Smith said.
She is a veteran after Desert Storm.
“That was a very difficult thing, because obviously there were a lot of injuries and a lot of death” Smith said. So, it was really hard for me when I came home just to deal with some of the things that I saw.”
Smith says like many others she suffers depression and PTSD, but she says hers is a little different.
“Mine is, I couldn’t help enough,” Smith said.
So, she reached out to the founder of the Warrior Hike on the Appalachian Trail 2 years ago.
“It was amazing, 2,189 miles hiking with other combat veterans,” Smith said.
With 15 other veterans, she hiked. She gained a new name.
“You’re the combat medic,” Smith said. “You’re taking care of everybody. Your trail name is going to be ‘mama goose.'”
“Every moment that I’m out there I think about my family,” Smith said. “I think about when I was at desert storm. I think about my career as a physical therapist. I think about what I’m going to do when I get back.”
She says it is a therapy better than medicine.
“When I went and saw my doctor in Asheville at the VA recently, she said if she could write a prescription for warrior hike she would,” Smith said. “It would be great. I think that people, not just veterans, go to nature to heal.”
She says for some 6 months is too long. So, since October she has been scouting out the Mountain to Sea Trail for a two month course crossing the entire state of North Carolina. September 2015 will be the first warrior hike for this state. Right now, Smith says she’s thinking about the next group.
“The guys and the girls that are really going to benefit from warrior hike right here in North Carolina,” Smith said.
The next group that gets to walk off the war.
“I’m excited to show them,” Smith said.
In the meantime, you may see “mama goose” walking anywhere from Surf City to the Outerbanks over the next 2 weeks. They need help finding community events for the hike when they pass through towns.
You can contact Tammy at the Topsail Chamber of Commerce at Director@topsailchamber.org. Smith plans to finish the trail on December 22, 2014. Then she will start planning the details for the September start. The information should be on the warrior hike website in February or March.
For more information go to their website. http://warriorhike.org/