The Mountaineer | themountaineer.villagesoup.com | September 23, 2011
JACKSONVILLE — Fortunate Sons, a group of 18 active duty Marines, is planning to collectively hike the entire 1,000-mile North Carolina “Mountains-to-Sea Trail” in the name of both charity and awareness.
The 42-day journey begins on Oct. 2 at Clingman’s Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains and ends at Jockey's Ridge on the outer banks on Veteran's Day weekend, Nov. 13. All funds raised in support of the event will go directly to the Semper Fi Fund.
The Semper Fi Fund is a non-profit organization that provides assistance to wounded and injured Marines, as well as personnel who might have been wounded or injured while supporting Marines.
“The mission and goals of the Semper Fi Fund are similar to ours," said Mark Greenlief, a Fortunate Sons member and Monmouth, Illinois native. "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.”
Jeremiah Johnson, a native of Hemet, California, recalls how the idea got started.
“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. We came up with the idea to hike the MST and the wheels started turning from there. Captain Greenlief presented the idea of doing this for a worthy cause and began contacting representatives from the Semper Fi Fund,” he said.
Although the Semper Fi Fund is the main focus of the efforts being made, Fortunate Sons also plans to raise awareness for the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.
“North Carolina is a beautiful state and what better way to experience its beauty than by hiking its premier trail and meeting people along the way,” explains Johnson. “In my opinion, North Carolina is the most military-friendly state in the Union, and we hope to show our gratitude for the appreciation displayed by both the state’s citizens and its government through raising awareness of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail and the communities that support it.”
Scot Ward, a “thru-hiker” who has completed the Mountains-to-Sea trail four times and author of the guide book “The Thru-Hiker’s Manual for the Mountains-to-Sea Trail of North Carolina,” was eager to volunteer his time to such a noble cause.
“I am excited to be part of Fortunate Sons. This hike will undoubtedly generate support for the Semper Fi Fund and assist their efforts to aid the wounded Marines. Not only is this benefitting the Semper Fi Fund but it will also bring some exposure to the Mountains-to-Sea Trail,” said Ward.
The 18 Marines participating on the trail have divided themselves into six two-man teams, with six Marines in reserve. The first team will start at Clingman’s Dome and hike for seven days and then be relieved by the on-coming team.
“Each team will be expected to hike an average of 150 miles a week or roughly 22 miles a day; not exactly an easy task,” said Johnson.
Plans are in place to have as much community involvement as possible.
“Together with Scot Ward, we are working to identify multiple communities along the trail that are willing to assist us in raising money and awareness," said 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.”
“The idea for the festivals and functions are to bring the communities together to learn about the trail, show their support for the Marines and possibly further the advancement of the MST to make this trail one of the best in the country,” said Ward.
"We are fortunate enough to be able to do something like this for our wounded brothers and sisters, fortunate enough to be given the chance to fight for our freedom, fortunate enough to be a part of these great organizations, and we are fortunate sons of America," added Greenlief.
Donations to the cause can be made through the Semper Fi fund at https://semperfifund.org/donate/. Please select "Fortunate Sons" as the event name under Additional Information in the payment form. All donations are tax deductible as allowed by law.
For more information about Fortunate Sons, please visit www.fortunatesons.org.
For more information about the Semper Fi Fund and the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, please visit www.semperfifund.org and www.ncmst.org.
Follow the Marines on their journey at www.twitter.com/Fortunate Sons and www.facebook.com/FortunateSonsMarines.