You are here: HomeNewsFront Page News ArticlesWarrior Hikers feted on eve before their CDT hike begins

Warrior Hikers feted on eve before their CDT hike begins














From left are Sterling Deck, warrior hiker on the CDT; Rick Phillips, support crew; Dana Phillips, warrior hiker and Rick's wife; Brian Leppek, warrior hiker; Kristi Black, CDT town coordinator; Sean Gobin, Warrior Hike national coordinator, and Jon O'Dell, warrior hiker. Not picturtured are Andrew Dyer, warrior hiker, and his girlfriend, who will also hike the CDT, Kim Geisreiter.

Photo and Article by Mary Alice Murphy

Four of six hikers, five of whom are veterans, called warrior hikers, gathered at VFW Commander Jim Zawacki's home in Silver City, the afternoon before they began the hike from the Mexican border to the Canadian border on the Continental Divide Trail.


Dana Phillips, who last year through-hiked the Appalachian Trail, leads the group with experience. "This time I'm walking the CDT as a veteran and doing it as a fundraiser for warriorhike.org."

Warrior Hike has created the "Walk Off The War" Program, which is designed to support combat veterans transitioning from their military service by through-hiking America's National Scenic Trails.

"My husband Rick, also a veteran, will be our lone support crew for most of the trip," Dana Phillips said.

Brian Leppek of Michigan said he is doing the hike because "after I came home, things were not the same. When we come home after serving in the military, we can feel lost and have post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as depression."

"I feel calm when I'm outside," Leppek said. "I saw this opportunity to hike the Continental Divide trail, I applied and was accepted. I have panic attacks in large groups, so I want to re-concentrate on myself and find myself. I've been here for seven days, because I came for the CDT celebration. I haven't met a rude person. I'm happier living under the stars. I owe it to my wife and daughter to get myself centered. If this part, the seven days I've been here, is the precursor to how I will feel after the hike, I can't wait."

Sterling Deck is also a warrior hiker, about to take off on the adventure.

"I spent 20 years in the military, ever since I was a teenager," Deck said. "I joined the year after I turned 18. This hike is like a continuation, like a mission to help me transition back to society. I love the outdoors and the physical and mental challenges this hike offers. When I found out about the opportunity, I knew I had to sign up. I want to see where it takes me. I want to go back to school and study biology. I want to become an ornithologist, maybe even get a Ph.D. I'll see where it takes me and what doors open. The V.A. is quick to give out meds, but that's just a 'bandaid.' Wilderness therapy is where it's at."

Sean Gobin, Warrior Hiker national coordinator, said the Continental Divide Trail is logistically challenging. "It's the longest of the triple crown trails at 3,100 miles. I will be helping out the first week, and then I'm going to Wisconsin to get the Ice Age Trail hike going, which is 1,200 miles long. It goes through Wisconsin. We have two female veterans hiking it this year."

Jon O'Dell, another warrior hiker, said he grew up in East Tennessee near the Smoky Mountains. "I went to survival school in Washington state, and fell in love with backpacking. For nine or 10 years, I went backpacking with my buddies. In reading different books, I was enthralled with long-distance hiking. When I got out of the military, I wanted to do the Continental Divide Trail."

"It's awesome what Warrior Hike is doing," O'Dell said. "I wouldn't do the CDT by myself. I am an experience hiker, and I'm chomping at the bit to get going."

He said the program had already helped him, because he had cold turkey quit dipping tobacco. "This is normalizing me back to civilian life. I just got out in September, and I have lived in a fifth-wheel for five years. After I got out, I lived with my brother, hoping to pre-empt problems adjusting."

These hikers and the two, who had been invited to dinner by others in town, Andrew Dyer, a veteran, and his girlfriend, Kim Geisreiter, an experienced long-distance hiker, are scheduled to end the hike at the Montana-Canada border on September 26, about five-and-a-half months from now.

Warrior Hike provides all the necessary gear for the hikers, although O'Dell said he was using some of his own gear.

For more information on the program, visit warriorhike.org.

Live from Silver City

Join GCB Three Times Weekly Updates

Welcome to Three Times Weekly Updates! You will be subscribed to email notifications with links to recently posted articles.
You can unsubscribe anytime. We never share or rent your email to anyone.

Fire Alerts

Editor's Note

If you are interested in a turnkey restaurant, check out the classfieds!

ALERT! The Beat website is undergoing upgrading this weekend, and may not be accessible part of Saturday and/or Sunday, but we will try to minimize the time it is offline. Thanks for your understanding! We'll see you next week with an updated site. Have a safe Memorial Day weekend!

The Beat totally appreciates its readers!  Thanks for having patience during these busy days of spring!

WARNING: All articles and photos indicated by a byline are copyrighted. You may not use any information found within the articles without asking permission AND giving attribution to the source. Photos can be requested and may incur a nominal fee for use personally or commercially.

Don't forget to tell advertisers that you saw their ad on the Beat.

Feel free to notify This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., if you notice any problems on the site. Your convenience is my desire for the Beat.

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

If you subscribe to the Join GCB Three Times Weekly Updates option on the left side of this page, you will be subscribed to email notifications with links to recently posted articles.

Check Out Classifieds. And look at Sponsors to see who is helping the Beat.

It's really easy to check to see if there's a classified ad. Just click on Classifieds in the blue menu and the page will open letting you know if there is a classified ad. Remember that your buying classified ads gives you a wide readership, as well as supporting the Beat.

Post YOURS for quick results!

Note that if an article does not have a byline, it was sent to the Beat and written by someone not affiliated with the Beat

Remember that all articles and photos are copyrighted to the person who wrote or took them. Please ask permission before using anything written or photographed. We charge a small fee for use of photos.

When you click on the blue and orange button on the upper left side of most pages, you will find out how you can help the Beat defray its expenses, which, with increased readership, continue to grow. You will arrive at a page that gives you options of how you can Help the Beat. All help is greatly appreciated and keeps the news you want and need coming into your browser.

Consider the Beat your DAILY newspaper for up-to-date information about Grant County. It's at your fingertips! One Click to Local News.

Thanks for your support for and your readership of Grant County's online news source—www.grantcountybeat.com.

Go to top