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'Walking Off The War' On North Carolina's Mountain To Sea Trail

Sharon Smith, aka Mama Goose, in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Sharon Smith on the trail, 2014
Sharon Smith on the trail, 2014

Sharon Smith is taking two months to walk North Carolina's Mountain to the Sea Trail, which is more than 1,000 miles long and crosses the entire state.

Smith served as an Air Force combat medic during the Gulf War - and she is helping to prep the trail for a larger contingent of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan who will cross the state next year as a part of the Warrior Hike: Walk off the War program. 

The program is simple: when veterans come off the battlefield, they are encouraged to head to head out to nature and take some time for themselves before attempting to transition back into their lives.

Many service members go from the front line to family life in 48 hours, Smith says.

Hiking with other military veterans while surrounded by nature and quiet gives them time to process what they've been through.

The project is a way for veterans of different wars to meet.
The project is a way for veterans of different wars to meet.

Smith started her walk October 18 in the western part of the state, high in the Smoky Mountains. She is trying to hike 17 to 18 miles per day. Her goal is to map specific distances for the larger group of veterans to take. She's writing a guide that will tell them how long to walk each day, and where they will stop for meals.

"It's so important for me and for all of us who are involved in Warrior Hike to help our brothers and sisters who come home because right now, 22 veterans are committing suicide every single day," says Smith. "I was never really able to process all of the things I went through. I didn't have this opportunity, I didn't have this possibility. That's why it's important for me to be a part of this, especially in North Carolina."

Find out more about the Mountains to the Sea trail here.

Take a virtual tour of the trail:

Carol Jackson has been with WUNC since 2006. As Digital News Editor, she writes stories for, and helps reporters and hosts make digital versions of their radio stories. She is also responsible for sharing stories on social media. Previously, Carol spent eight years with WUNC's nationally syndicated show The Story with Dick Gordon, serving as Managing Editor and Interim Senior Producer.
Phoebe Judge is an award-winning journalist whose work has been featured on a numerous national radio programs. She regularly conducts interviews and anchors WUNC's broadcast of Here & Now. Previously, Phoebe served as producer, reporter and guest host for the nationally distributed public radio program The Story. Earlier in her career, Phoebe reported from the gulf coast of Mississippi. She covered the BP oil spill and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina for Mississippi Public Broadcasting and National Public Radio. Phoebe's work has won multiple Edward R. Murrow and Associated Press awards. Phoebe was born and raised in Chicago and is graduate of Bennington College and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies.
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