DELPHOS — They had only talked on social media before they met in
person for the first time on July 3 and hit the Buckeye Trail the next
day for a 4-month hike.
Veterans Sterling Deck and Martin Strange
are participating in the Warrior Expedition Program inspired by Earl
Shaffer, who in 1948 told a friend he was going to “walk off the war.”
Shaffer was trying to process what he saw, heard and lost during World
War II. Four months later, Shaffer became the first person to hike the
entire length of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine.
an Army veteran serving from 1992 to 2013, hails from Hamilton.
Strange, a former U.S. Marine, served from 2005-09 and is from Bowling
Green. They were matched for the expedition after a rigorous
questionnaire and Skype interview.
“I did a hike last year and I was online looking for something to get outdoors,” Deck said.
Strange had a friend who hiked the Appalachian Trail and told him to check into the Warrior Expedition.
“I was accepted earlier this year,” he said. “The process take a while so they can find the best fit for pairs.”
a combat veteran is a requirement to be considered for the program.
hard to come out of the military mindset,” Deck said. “People say you
become robotic after training over and over for a long period of time.
It’s an adjustment to become a civilian again. You want things a certain
way. I have to learn not to worry about what I can’t control — which is
pretty much everything.”
changed me in ways I haven’t adjusted to yet,” he said. “It is what it
is. That’s why I like hiking. You can find yourself and get in your own
head. You have time to process. This hike is just a continuation of what
I’ve been doing.”
The pair said the program gives veterans who
have experienced combat situations a positive, healthy alternative
compared to other habits.
“Some turn to alcohol or drugs,” Deck
said. “We don’t all have the same reaction to experiencing hand-to-hand
combat or shooting someone or seeing it. A lot of people in combat
situations feel remorseful. They see buddies and co-workers die; they
have survivor’s guilt. A lot of veterans get angry.”
Strange finds amateur photography during his hikes is an outlet.
not a ‘photographer’,” he said. “I just like to capture little moments
in nature. I share them on Instagram and Facebook. It’s early in this
hike but so far, I’m getting what I was looking for.”
Trail, meandering for more than 1,444 miles in a loose loop around the
state, meets up with the Miami-Erie Canal south of Delphos and then
heads out of Delphos to the north once it crosses Lincoln Highway. The
men started in Edin Park near Cincinnati and will end their trek on Oct.
9 in Milford, approximately 10 miles from where they started.
hike 5-6 hours a day. Seven hours is a long day. Breaks are also built
into the hiking schedule. As the days got warmer last week, they would
get up earlier and get their miles in before the worst heat of the day.
The program supplies their hiking equipment, food, water and shelter or a
Stops at VFW Posts are also on the schedule.
Deck and Strange walked into Delphos on Saturday morning and were met by
local VFW Quartermaster Dave Edelbrock, who took them to the Microtel
to rest and shower. The post hosted a dinner for the pair Saturday night
and took them back to the motel to rest before they headed back out
early Sunday morning. They hoped to hike 14 miles on Sunday and stop on
the other side of Ottoville before heading to Bowling Green for an
overnight and a stop at the local VFW.
“It was a pleasure to host these guys,” Post Commander Shannon Wagoner said. “I hope they have a safe trip.”