MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
It has been said that the greatest journeys begin with a single step, yet when one journey holds well over two million steps, the challenge is daunting indeed.
From the Appalachian Mountains at the very west of North Carolina to the Atlantic Ocean, cutting through the state like a vein, lays a footpath that only dedicated hikers dare to rival: the notorious Mountains-To-Sea trail; 1,000 miles of hiking path passing through 37 counties. It is this journey that, when beginning with that single step, might seem like an impossible feat.
However, there is one group of hikers who are ready to take on the thousand-mile challenge. Fortunate Sons, a group of active-duty Marines dedicated to the goal of raising awareness and support for injured Marines, as well as $1 million to donate to the Semper Fi Fund, will attack this behemoth of a trail and navigate across the state beginning Oct. 2 and ending on Veteran’s Day weekend, Nov. 13.
“The mission and goals of the Semper Fi Fund are similar to ours," said Capt. Mark Greenlief, commanding officer of Company E, Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry – East and a Fortunate Sons member. "Our goals are to show honor and continued support for Marines who were hurt in the defense of our country, who are the reminder of the cost of freedom.”
Eighteen active-duty Marines with the Fortunate Sons will be split into six two-man teams with the remaining six Marines in reserve. The first team will begin at the starting point at Clingman’s Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains in Western North Carolina and hike approximately 150 miles in one week, being relieved by the second team afterward. Each team hikes and gets relieved until all six teams have hiked their goal distance, ending at the Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head, N.C.
“I work with a great group of guys and we are always trying to find adventures and something exciting to do in our spare time,” said Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson, a platoon commander with ITB. “We came up with the idea to hike the MST and the wheels started turning from there. Capt. Greenlief presented the idea of doing this for a worthy cause and began contacting representatives from the Semper Fi Fund.”
Along the way, the Marines will be stopping at various towns that their route runs through, to engage in a few public awareness events, highlighting the Semper Fi Fund. While the hikers are scheduled to stop at six events, more are in the works before Oct. 2 for maximum exposure for the fund.
“We are working to identify multiple communities along the trail that are willing to assist us in raising money and awareness," says Greenlief. “With the kick-off on Oct. 2 and the finish on Veterans Day weekend, we hope to get as much community involvement as possible.”
For most Marines during Veteran’s Day weekend, they would either be kicking back and relaxing or getting ready for the Marine Corps birthday ball. For these 18 Marines of the Fortunate Sons, they will be completing a 1,000 mile hike to help benefit wounded Marines.