The 2019 Appalachian Trail thru-hiking season has begun, and at The Kosher Backpacker, we want to profile long distance hikers of interest.
There’s nothing more near and dear to my heart than the role of national treasures like our National Trails play in emotional, physical, and spiritual healing for our veterans.
So meet Michael Thorpe, AKA Hugs, and Fecteau, his pooch.
Michael is a 12-year veteran of the Marine Corps and the Army. He deployed three times to Iraq (Fallujah and Al-Asad) and Afghanistan (near Ghazni and Paktika Province). He was first diagnosed with PTSD in 2007 on his second deployment. He didn’t do much with that diagnosis, thinking of it as “normal,” finally seeking treatment after a motorcycle accident in 2015. He was medically discharged from the military in 2016, and continued treatment.
In his own words:
Life with PTSD is not easy. In fact, it’s an everyday struggle. I am hiking this year to raise awareness for people who struggle with PTSD. To show that you can have a quality life. Some people who struggle with PTSD tend to feel trapped inside the walls of their home, doctors offices, treatment centers and anything that keeps them from really enjoying their life. I want that to change. I want them to know that you CAN live a life without fear. I want to be open about my PTSD and be an ear for those struggling. I want to share my struggles in hopes of helping others. I also want to share the things that have made impacts on my life and the biggest one to date is Fecteau. I see multiple doctors on a weekly basis to treat my PTSD so, for me, hiking is a great vacation. In 2017, when I was on the trail last, I dealt with some issues that come with PTSD. My anxiety and nightmares kept me from sleeping in the beginning, but as I went along the trail, it mostly subsided. So now, I hike. I hike because it is my escape. Nature is my freedom from it all.
Hugs and Fecteau are hiking to raise money for Paws Assisting Wounded Warriors (PAWWS). This organization’s purpose is to aid military veterans afflicted with PTSD or TBI (traumatic brain injury) by pairing them with service dogs. These dogs help a veteran regain their place in civilian society and cope with their triggers or lingering issues, in order to help them achieve more independence. Dogs are given to veterans free, covering also their food, veterinary care, and equipment.
At the time I write this, they’ve been on the trail for roughly 20 days, reaching Fontana Dam.
Please, consider donating to this program in the name of Hugs and Fecteau.
Also, follow their progress on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/pg/Fecteauandhugs.
Last modified: February 27, 2019