They served their country and now they are serving fellow soldiers who were wounded.
Retired Marines Mark Silvers and Sean Gobin both served the country in multiple tours in the Middle East. Now, after exiting the Marine Corp, the two men are hiking the Appalachian Trail in a fundraising effort that will profit veterans who are amputees.
'The purpose of our hike is to raise money for wounded veterans, specifically to provide adaptive vehicles for amputees,' said Silvers, 26, of Virginia.
'With the increase in medical technology, a lot of guys that wouldn't have made it home are making it home now,' said Gobin, 36, of Rhode Island. 'They're coming home with pretty significant injuries and the rehabilitation process and support that needs to be there for wounded veterans is a lot higher today than it was a year or two ago.'
Silvers, who had two tours in Afghanistan, and Gobin, who performed two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, are associated with the Texas-based nonprofit organization Operation Military Embrace, which provides grants to cover the costs associated with adaptive vehicles that are not funded by Veterans Affairs.
'The VA doesn't cover 100 percent of the cost for an adaptive vehicle, so a lot of times a veteran ends up eating some of the cost himself,' said Silvers. 'What we do is provide a grant for the exact amount of the difference between what the VA provides and what the actual cost is. And that makes that vehicle completely free of charge for that wounded veteran.'
The men are partnering with VFWs, American Legions, Marine Corp Leagues and other veterans' organizations to raise funds. Throughout the duration of their journey, which began on March 14 at Springer Mountain, Ga., and will end July 31 at Mount Katahdin, Maine, the Marines will stop at 38 locations along the trail.
Destination spots were chosen according to the cooperation of given organizations and proximity to the trail. Hamburg's VFW was one of the destinations along the trail, as Gobin and Silvers stopped at the Wagner-Good Post on May 31 and received a $1,040 donation from the organization. The funds were comprised of donations from local businesses and from the VFW.
'Anybody that's ever been in the service knows that you become like brothers,' said Hamburg VFW Commander Dennis ???. 'So it's very important to help, especially wounded veterans, whenever we can so that they're not forgotten, because a lot of times the system itself will forget them.'
The funds from the Hamburg VFW, along with other donations, have brought the total raised thus far during the two and a half months of hiking to around $18,000. Silvers said that so far throughout the journey, Pennsylvania has served as the most supportive state by far, and that the VFW at the state level even sent out information in regards to the fundraiser.
And while the funds are coming in and the men now have their hiking legs underneath of them, the going was a bit rough in the beginning, according to Gobins. He said the physical nature of the journey was more difficult than they anticipated, and they were trying for the first few weeks to get their bodies acclimated to hiking 15-20 miles a day.
'You hike in the Marine Corp but you'll do a long hike and then you don't hike for weeks,' said Gobins. 'But to hike every single day is where it became different. But we're used to hardship. We're used to bad weather, being tired and hungry and so that aspect of it, the Marine Corp definitely prepared us for the hardship.'