A combat veteran from Tennessee on an epic hike, one he’s dreamed about for years, is more than half-way to his goal of finishing all 2,200 miles of the Appalachian Trail.
“I’m averaging 15 to 20 miles a day. Now, I try not to do below 15 (miles) to feel satisfied and tired,” said Daniel Dean in a video dispatch from the trail.
Half-year deployments are nothing new for retired Marine sniper Daniel Dean who endured three combat tours in Iraq.
“I’ve always wanted to, even in the Marine Corps during my deployments I always had a fascination with the Appalachian Trail,” said Dean before embarking on his journey back in March, adding, “…most people don’t know, the first person to hike the Appalachian Trail, the whole thing was a World War II veteran who came home in the forties and said, ‘I’m going to walk off the war.”
Dean’s 14-state journey from Georgia to Maine is sponsored by the organization Warrior Hike. He stepped off on that trip through the “long green tunnel” along with nine other combat veterans, eight men and two women, from all branches.
“So (they’ll) be my family for the next six months,” Dean said with a smile.
He has kept an almost daily log of his journey through the social media site Instagram with the handle @danieldeanmarine.
Dean who helped lend his music and songwriting talents to a state wide campaign in Tennessee centered on military suicides that we first reported in our Service & Sacrifice series back in 2014.
The veteran warrior will shoulder the memories of military friends, even a cousin and military veteran he lost to suicide. Both are helping motivate his long walk in the woods.
“I’m a firm believer in the outdoors, for me it’s my therapy,” said Dean who will pay tribute with every step to his fallen brothers.
“I’m borrowing (my cousin’s) funeral flag to bring with me on the hike, so he’s going to be with me all 2,000 miles,” said Dean.
He is on track to finish in September and spoke about that goal in another video dispatch.
“I don’t know how I’ll celebrate I’ll be there and I’ll know I’ve accomplished it but maybe I’ll be just as lost then but I know I will have found something in myself and I’ll be in Maine for the first time so take it from there,” Dean said clenching his fist in a show of strength and determination for the camera.