Many folks who enjoy spending time in the outdoors bring up the “healing power” of nature and the multiple mental health benefits attributed to simply taking a walk in the woods. Veterans are members of our community that especially deserve that same opportunity, and Warrior Expeditions has been leading the charge for their inclusion since 2012. The aim of their organization is to make long-term outdoor experiences a reality for combat-deployed veterans, and includes 3 main programs to choose from depending on the individual’s outdoor activity of choice.
Introducing Jeff Klemmer: a veteran who received a sponsorship from Warrior Expeditions to embark on an Appalachian Trail thru-hike. Jeff, originally from Pass Christian, Mississippi served in the US Marine Corps from 1989 - 2013 and was kind enough to share his experience of the program with us. Read on to find out more about Warrior Expeditions and Jeff’s experience on the trail this year.
Interview has been edited for length and clarity.
How are veterans supported while participating in a Warrior Expeditions program?
We were supported by the Warrior Expeditions program as far as equipment and gear was concerned, as well as some replacement & resupply items. The other support we received came from a network of Warrior Expeditions volunteers. They offered a variety of assistance that included shuttle rides to and from the trail, trips into towns for resupply, home stays or help with hotel stays, and provided some normalcy for us after being on the trail for days at a time.
What was the most memorable part of your experience thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail?
It is hard to sum it up into one most memorable experience; but I would say the kindness of so many different people like Trail Angels and other hikers. People or strangers, who offered food, water, rides, and sometimes shelter.
What was your biggest takeaway from your experience with Warrior Expeditions?
There are other experiences aside from the Appalachian Trail. But the Program is designed to use outdoor therapy to help Combat Deployed Veterans with some of the depression, and emotional and mental struggles they may be experiencing as a result of their deployment experiences. To sum it up, this Program has no doubt literally saved lives over the years.
What is one thing you'd like people to know about Warrior Expeditions as a program?
I would like people to know that this Program is so much more than a Veteran being sponsored to participate and complete one of their experiences. Warrior Expeditions even offers an avenue for Veterans to reach out to mental health professionals if needed. It's a way to reconnect with people, fellow Veterans, and the community. It is an amazing program!
CLICK HERE to make a donation to Warrior Expeditions.
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