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‘Miles of Memories Hike’ through the 100-Mile Wilderness recognizes those who served

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MONSON — For the fourth year in a row — the 2017 group is comprised of 11 members — a contingent is hiking approximately 120 miles over a week and a half from downtown Monson to the summit of Mount Katahdin through the 100-Mile Wilderness along the northernmost section of the Appalachian Trail to raise funds through pledges along the way. This year’s “Miles of Memories Hike” supports the Wilderness Walk for Warriors, an organization that raises money for Maine veterans and service members and their families and honors the nation’s fallen heroes through a motto of “Assisting the Living, Honoring the Deceased.”

During the late morning of July 8 members of the Wilderness Walk for Warriors team departed Bangor by the Army Aviation Support Facility on Florida Avenue for a 60-mile ride to the Monson, escorted by the Patriot Riders of America, Penobscot Valley 4 Wheel Drive organization, Downeast Emergency Management Institute and others.

During the noon hour the roar of motorcycles could be heard in town as the procession arrived. Following a barbecue served by Monson’s American Legion Post 116, those present gathered around Wilderness Walk for Warriors founder Chris Robinson of Houlton and his brother and organization co-founder Tim Robinson of Levant — a U.S. Navy veteran.

After some opening remarks thanking those in attendance, the Robinson brothers were presented with a $500 ceremonial check by Penobscot Valley 4 Wheel Drive founder Trish Landry.

“On behalf of myself and (State Sen. Paul Davis, R-Sangerville) I would really to thank each and every one of you,” State Rep. Paul Stearns, R-Guilford, said. “I believe this is the fourth annual walk and we really owe a lot to the Robinson brothers and the hikers who are about to strike out.”

“It is really bittersweet that we have to have organizations like this,” Rep. Stearns said, saying the federal government should be doing more for the nation’s veterans. He said Maine’s recent and current Legislative delegation has been very strong advocates for veteran’s affairs.

Newly-elected Maine State American Legion Commander Randy Kluj of Milo thanked all the veterans and others present on Saturday afternoon. “This is our third year with them and I don’t think you can meet a better patriot group than Wilderness Walk for Warriors,” he said. “Every penny goes to veterans and we are so happy to have them here.”

“At this time we are going to fall into a ceremony for the fallen,” Tim Robinson said. “We are going to read the names aloud.”

With Pete Johnson of American Legion Post 94 in Greenville, a former state commander and a former state representative, reading the list each of the 11 Miles of Memory Hike participants came forward to pick up their Maine soldier killed in action flag. Each two-sided flag featured the image of the service member and their biographical information.

The 11 hikers and their respective heros are Chris Robinson, U.S. Army Spc. Dustin Harris of Patten; Tim Robinson, U.S. Army Sgt. Joel House of Lee; Jane Spurling Torres, U.S. Army Sgt 1st Class Aaron Henderson of Houlton; Gary White Jr., U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Lowery of Houlton; Stephen Emery, U.S. Army Sgt. Blair Emery of Lee; CJ Bartlett, 1st Lt. James Zimmerman of Smyrna; Robert Gonzalez, U.S. Army Cpl. Dustin Libby of Presque Isle; Jeff Bishop, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jessica Wing of Littleton; Tony Jans, U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Devin Strout of Milo; Philip Dow, U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Michael Severence of Lee; and David Iverson, U.S. Army Spc. William Koellsch of Milo.

“That concludes this year’s honorees,” Johnson said.

“Each of the 11 hikers will be carrying these flags exposed, so all can see,” Chris Robinson said. He said he has the honor of receiving the flag commemorating Spc. Harris from Harris’ grandfather who was at the pre-hike ceremony.

“We had these 11 double-sided flags made at a shop in Houlton,” Robinson said. “It will be a great honor for us to carry these through the 100-Mile Wilderness to the top of Mount Katahdin.” He said hikers hope the weather will be clear when they finish their journey in about 10 days, as the plan is for Paul Cyr Photography to capture some aerial shots of the group standing atop Maine’s highest elevation with their flags flying.

“2013, in the fall, I was hiking in Baxter State Park by myself and I had this crazy idea to start this organization,” Robinson said about combining his love of the outdoors with giving back to those who have served. “I called my brother Tim and here we are today.”

Chris Robinson said he is not a veteran himself but Wilderness Walk for Warriors is a “way of giving back just this little piece.”

“After 47 years of all this wonderful country has given me, it was time for me to give back to this wonderful country,” he said.

“I still think about those guys who didn’t come home with me and those guys who are home who didn’t really come home,” Tim Robinson said, saying much more can be done to assist those who have served.

Observer photo/Stuart Hedstrom
MILES OF MEMORIES HIKE — Wilderness Walk for Warriors founder Chris Robinson, left, and his brother and co-founder Tim Robinson listen as Pete Johnson of American Legion Post 94 in Greenville reads the names of 11 fallen service members being honored in this year’s Miles of Memories Hike from Monson to the summit of Mount Katahdin. On July 8 the group departed from Monson to begin their approximate 120-mile journey north in the fourth annual Wilderness Walk for Warriors event, which raises funds for Maine veterans and service members and their families.

Observer photo/Stuart Hedstrom
THE 11 HIKERS — A group of 11 is hiking over 10 days from Monson to the summit of Mount Katahdin in the Wilderness Walk for Warriors’ Miles of Memories Hike. The contingent departed on Saturday afternoon from Monson and each participant will be carrying a Maine soldier killed in action flag along the way.

Observer photo/Stuart Hedstrom
MOTORCYCLE ESCORT — The 2017 Wilderness Walk for Warriors “Miles of Memories Hike” participants traveled with a motorcycle escort from Bangor to Monson on July 8. From the Monson the hikers are walking nearly 120 miles to the Summit of Mount Katahdin to honor fallen members of the military while raising monies for various veterans programs.

Observer photo/Stuart Hedstrom
$500 DONATION — Penobscot Valley 4 Wheel Drive founder Trish Landry presents a $500 donation to Wilderness Walk for Warriors founder Chris Robinson, left, and co-founder Tim Robinson prior to the fourth annual hike on July 8 in Monson. Members of Penobscot Valley 4 Wheel Drive were part of the escort from Bangor to Monson prior to the fourth annual Wilderness Walk for Warriors hike.

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