Retired Sergeant Major Paul Gaumond has a passion for hiking. The 58-year-old logs about 5 to 6 miles every other day on the trails near his home in Asheville, North Carolina. He is going to turn his passion into profit and donate that money to help veterans’ families. In April, 2018 Gaumond will hike all 2,100 miles of the Appalachian trail to raise money for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, a charity that helps finance college educations for the children of fallen special operations forces.
The Appalachian trail is a 2,100 mile marked hiking trail in the Eastern United States extending between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine. Anyone that completes all 2,100 miles in a single calendar year earns the coveted title of “Thru-hiker.” A colloquial term for any hiker that is determined enough to take the 4-6 month expedition.
Gaumond hopes to earn the title of Thru-hiker while raising $25,000 for charity and creating unforgettable memories with his own daughter, who will be joining him for the last half of the trail after graduating from college.
“We’ve always given money to the organization,” he said. “So why not go out and hike, really raise some money, and have a bonding experience with my daughter?”
The retired veteran’s main goal is to help raise awareness for the special operations forces and the men and women who died serving their country. He said he wants to make sure people don’t forget the sacrifice they made.
Each year thousands of hikers attempt to Thru-hike the trail, with only 25% achieving their goal. Gaumond says that the mental preparation is the hardest part of a Thru-hike, and he plans to spend his preparation time thinking about his fallen fellow service members.
“A lot of people hike this trail and a lot of people (who serve) don’t come back,” he said. “The mental prep for this is being focused on why you are doing it.”
Gaumond hopes to complete the trail in 2018 to give back to his fellow veterans, he is also considering joining the Appalachian Trail Conservancy to give back to his fellow hikers for making this trip possible.