Veterans hike 100 miles from Maine to Massachusetts to raise PTSD awareness: ‘Changed my life’

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Eleven veterans, men and women, have just walked from Maine to Massachusetts to raise awareness about something they’ve all experienced: PTSD. 

June is PTSD Awareness Month, and this year a group of 11 veterans walked 100 miles over a five-day period to raise awareness of the critical issue facing so many military veterans. 

The PTSD Century Hike started on Monday, June 10, in Kittery, Maine, where the veterans began hiking. They went through New Hampshire and ended up in Foxborough, Massachusetts, on Friday, June 14.

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PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is known to be common among combat veterans who return home from their service. 

Seven out of every 100 veterans will have PTSD at some point in their life, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs notes.

Fox News Digital spoke with veteran John Schafer on day three of the adventure, about 30 miles into the hike in Newburyport, Massachusetts. 

The effort to raise money for Semper Fi & America’s Fund was going well, he said. 

“I think we’ve been well received among the community — all honking in support,” he said.

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He added that the team, as expected, had a few “little aches and pain here and there.” 

Semper Fi & America’s Fund, headquartered in Camp Pendleton, California, is an organization that provides financial assistance and support for critically wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans. It also assists military families in need, according to the group’s website. 

Veterans hiking

The Texas-based veteran spent nine years in the U.S. Marines and was deployed three times. He suffers from PTSD after surviving multiple brain injuries from explosions while in combat. 

After finding support and strength through exercise, Schafer partook in the 2023 PTSD Century Hike — and said it changed his life. 

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“Last year … I came in kind of unprepared, but the impact it had on my life, the people that I met, the physical and mental aspects and how it changed my life was something I was like, ‘I have to do this again,’” he said.  

John Schafer

Schafer said he was not only more prepared for the five-day hike this year — including having the proper shoes and doing physical training beforehand — but he said it was something he was looking forward to for several reasons.

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“I did last year’s hike in Kansas, so I got to return this year kind of like a mentor,” he said.

“The unspoken bond and brotherhood is there.”

He noted that some things in the military “never die,” as he likes to hang in the back of the group to make sure there are no “stragglers.”

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“We’re all here for one commonality, and it’s affected us in various ways, so the unspoken bond and brotherhood is there,” he said. 

John Schafer

“It’s a different friendship,” he added, “when you meet somebody who has endured a similar path of life like we have.” 

When Schafer spoke with Fox News Digital around mile 30, he said the weather was pleasant — even saying the group hiked over half of the day before along the beach, enjoying a nice breeze and view.

Last year, Schafer was one of nine who hiked 105 miles from Kansas to Missouri in mid-90-degree heat and humidity. 

“We got lucky with this hike — it was a beautiful day,” he said, recalling day two of the adventure. 

American flag

The veteran detailed meeting this year’s hikers — five of whom are returnees. 

He said connecting with people who have experienced something similar to what he’s been through is what has made the experience “life-changing.”

“It’s a different friendship when you meet somebody who has endured a similar path of life like we have.”

On the fourth day of the hike, the veterans witnessed a car accident in front of their eyes.

Schafer told Fox News Digital the group stayed on the scene, assisting the victims, until first responders arrived. 

Veterans and officer

“After finding out what the PTSD Century Hike was all about, one of the responding police officers tore the patch off his uniform for us to carry with us in memory of an officer who died by suicide in 2019,” he said.

Later that day, the group met back up with the officer to take a photo. 

On Friday, June 14, at around 9:15 a.m. ET, the hikers finished their 100-mile hike at the one and only Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. 

Veterans hiking and American flag

The New England Patriots Foundation and New England Revolution Foundation hosted a special finish-line ceremony for supporters to watch the 11 veterans complete the 5-day challenge. 

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The veterans will also be honored at halftime during the New England Revolution soccer match on June 15. 

Schafer said that he hopes to affect just one person positively in the hope that the trickle-down will be monumental.

Anyone can learn more at the Semper Fi & America’s Fund website. 

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