U.S. Veterans Hike from Maine to Georgia to Raise Awareness of Unemployment and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Among Returning Military

-- Follow the journey at www.facebook.com/hikingheroes --

Aug 14, 2013, 10:00 ET from Hiking Heroes

ATLANTA, Aug. 14, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Unemployment and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are two of the most critical issues facing United States veterans today. On July 13, 2013, decorated veterans Sergeant First Class Eric Bourquin and Captain Sean Niquette embarked on Mission: Appalachian Trail Hike, an inspiring journey across 2,200 miles and 14 states, to shine a spotlight on these two important issues.  

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for veterans who actively served in the U.S. Armed Forces since September 2001 (a group known as Gulf War-era II veterans) is nearly 10 percent, approximately two percentage points higher than the unemployment rate facing others in the U.S.1  Furthermore, nearly one in three veterans have PTSD, a mental health condition triggered by a terrifying event, which contributes to and compounds the issue of unemployment.2,3  Given time and care, people with PTSD often recover and are able to carry on with their careers and other life commitments.

Sergeant First Class Eric Bourquin and Captain Sean Niquette together served in our nation's Armed Forces for nearly 20 years. Both men received physical injuries during service and have been treated for PTSD. 

  • Retired Sergeant First Class Bourquin completed three deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq and was awarded two Bronze Stars of Valor for his heroic efforts to save members of his platoon during an attack that killed or injured one-third of his fellow soldiers. When Bourquin retired from the military, he became keenly aware of how difficult gaining employment would be, as well as how poorly PTSD is understood.   "Like other veterans, I am highly trained and hard working, but there aren't a lot of jobs out there for infantrymen," he said. Now studying to become a nurse anesthesiologist, Bourquin plans to one day work at a VA hospital, "so I can still help soldiers and mentor them, to show them I did it, and you can, too."
  • Captain Sean Niquette always wanted to serve his country, but the events of 9/11 served as a catalyst for enrolling in West Point and later the Army. While serving in Iraq, Niquette's company was attacked by rockets while sleeping. Niquette pulled several soldiers from the wreckage and was awarded the Purple Heart; he also sustained a traumatic brain injury from which he gradually recovered.  Niquette wants to change people's attitudes toward PTSD. "There's a lot of misconception about PTSD and stigma associated with it," he says. "Having PTSD isn't at all like how it's shown on TV. It doesn't make a veteran unemployable or unable to work." After fulfilling his service commitment to the Army, Sean is moving to the next chapter of his career.

The Appalachian Trail is an often treacherous test of endurance that is completed by only 25 percent of those who attempt it.  Bourquin and Niquette began their journey at the trail's northern point at Mount Katahdin, Maine. The two veterans plan to complete about 20 miles a day with an estimated end date in mid-November.  The two men will be stopping at trail heads along the Appalachian Trail to rest and secure supplies.  Members of local business communities also will be joining the men at various points along the route. To get involved, visit www.hikingheroes.com. You also can follow the journey at www.facebook.com/hikingheroes.  

About Mission: Appalachian Trail Hike
On July 13, 2013, decorated U.S. veterans Sergeant First Class Eric Bourquin and Captain Sean Niquette embarked on Mission: Appalachian Trail Hike, an inspiring journey across 2,200 miles and 14 states, to shine a spotlight on two of the most critical issues facing our returning military: unemployment and PTSD. These courageous heroes will overcome injuries sustained in service to hike the entire Appalachian Trail, while searching for new opportunities to improve their lives and those of their families.  Mission: Appalachian Trail Hike is supported by Sanofi U.S., The Sterling Group and Vesel Interactive. To follow the journey and get involved, visit www.hikingheroes.com.

1 2012, http://www.bls.gov/news.release/vet.nr0.htm
2 http://www.sa.sdsu.edu/cps/veterans.html 
3 Mayo Clinic

Contact Information:

Stephanie Libby

Shannon Darke

SOURCE Hiking Heroes