Four veterans who are traversing the entire 2,650 mile Pacific Crest Trail as part of the Walk Off the War Program will make a rest stop in Dunsmuir later this month.
“The Warrior Hikers are excited for the opportunity to speak with community members over dinner, take showers, and do some much-needed laundry after spending a week hiking along the Pacific Crest Trail,” said the project’s events coordinator, Alyson Browett.
The hikers are aiming to arrive in Dunsmuir on Sunday, July 20, but their schedule is not set in stone, Browett said.
Sandy Raine, owner of Dunsmuir’s Burger Barn, said she will be treating the hikers to dinner. Mark Juarez will provide free lodging for the men at Dunsmuir Hotel, and doing their laundry.
The next morning, a group of well-wishers will provide the veterans with breakfast before they head out to the trail again, said Raine.
The four men who will stop in Dunsmuir are:
• Thomas Bielecki – Originally from Grand Rapids, Mich., Bielecki enlisted in the US Army in 1984 as an infantryman. In 2012, Bielecki deployed to Afghanistan with the 126th Cavalry Regiment.
He currently lives in Alto, Michigan and plans to earn his bachelor’s degree in Nursing after hiking the PCT.
• Kevin Black – Originally from Clarksburg, WV Black enlisted in the US Marine Corps in 1978 as a Legal Services Specialist. In 1990 Black deployed to Saudi Arabia with Headquarters and Services Battalion, 2nd Force Services Support Group and in 2002 deployed to Kuwait with Headquarters and Services Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group.
Black currently lives in Oceanside, California and plans to sail around the world with his wife after hiking the PCT.
• Joshua Shields – Originally from Mundelein, Ill., he enlisted in the US Air Force in 2006 as an Airborne Cryptologic Language Analyst. In 2008, 2009, and 2010 Joshua deployed to Iraq with the 97th Intelligence Squadron.
Shields currently lives in Saint Amant, Louisiana and plans to finish his bachelor’s degree in Earth Science after his experience on the PCT.
• Shawn White – Originally from Virginia Beach, Va. White enlisted in the US Army in 2004 as a Combat Engineer. In 2007 and 2009 Shawn deployed to Iraq and in 2012 deployed to Afghanistan with the 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.
Shawn currently lives in Olympia, Washington and plans to earn his bachelor's degree in Recreation Therapy after hiking his hike.
History of the program
In 1948, Earl Shaffer told a friend he was going to “walk off the war” to work out the sights, sounds, and losses of World War II. Four months later, Shaffer became the first person to hike the entire length of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine.
In honor of Shaffer and in recognizing the physical, mental, and spiritual benefits of long-distance hiking, Warrior Hike has partnered with the Pacific Crest Trail Association to create the Walk Off The War program. The Warrior Hike is an outdoor therapy program that supports combat veterans transitioning from their military service by hiking the PCT, the 2,185 mile long Appalachain Trail which stretches from Georgia to Maine; and the Continental Divide Trail, which stretches 3,100 miles from New Mexico to Canada.
The Walk Off the War program provides participating combat veterans with the equipment and supplies required to complete a six-month thru-hike of the PCT; coordinates trail town support in the forms of transportation, food, and lodging with veteran organizations and community groups located along the trail; and assists veterans with future employment opportunities through the program's numerous partners and sponsors.
“Hiking over 2,000 miles during the course of six months really gives a veteran an opportunity to decompress and come to terms with their wartime experiences,” said Warrior Hike executive director Sean Gobin, a former Marine Corps Captain, in a press release. “Additionally, the camaraderie that is shared between our combat veterans and the trail town communities help facilitate their integration back into society.”
For more information visit www.warriorhike.com or check them out on facebook at facebook.com/warriorhike