We are welcoming guest bloggers and are pleased to be associated with Daniel Caballero (FT Class of 2016-Warrior Hike) of Warrior Expeditions.
By: Daniel Caballero
As a veteran who served as a Combat Infantryman in the U.S. Army, sometimes the hardest part of going to war is coming home and facing the routines of civilian life. Just as many other veterans, I faced extreme mental challenges as I tried to decompress from the intense situations I experienced overseas. The regular civilian would not understand, but we veterans are left with many unpleasant memories and underutilized skills which leave us feeling helpless, angry, confused and depressed. Unfortunately, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a reality I now have to live with. I remember one day getting a call from my mom and telling me to look into Warrior Expeditions. I learned this was a non-profit organization that helps returning veterans transition to civilian life through long distance expeditions. Through this organization, I learned about the Florida Trail (FT). My life completely changed after that.
January 8, 2016, I started a “thru-hike” with my fellow warriors Michal Goetz, Air Force Command Chief Master Sergeant, Henry Lehman, Army Infantryman, and Dylan Tearle, Marine Corps Automotive Mechanic. We stepped off from Oasis visitor center, the Southern Terminus of the FT, not knowing that ahead we would be tromping through knee-deep water (and at times waist deep). Our endurance, camaraderie, and skillfulness with the hiking poles was about to be put to test. We really underestimated how the first section of the trail (and one of my favorites) can test even the most experienced hiker. However, one can not overlook the beauty of this vast subtropical terrain. As I hiked north, I experienced a significant change in ecosystems, from swamps, to forests, to beaches. Conversely, I also had to endure several miles of road walking since some of the sections of the FT are not continuous.
Through this enduring, yet unforgettable experience, I learned to listen to my thoughts and start controlling my emotions. I have found that being out on the trail has benefited me (and my family) by teaching me to deal with my anxiety and racing thoughts. The quietness of nature allowed me to meditate and do a little soul searching. Also, I noticed the hiking community is very supportive. You meet so many wonderful people along the way. I have since then decided to give back by becoming involved with the FT, hoping that sharing my story will not only help other veterans, but continue to develop the Florida Trail.
For more information visit our website at https://warriorexpeditions.org/