MILITARY MATTERS: Veteran Hikes Entire Appalachian Trail To Help Military Families

Published: Aug. 14, 2023 at 3:50 PM EDT
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TEMPLETON, MASS, (WTVM) - Hiking the Appalachian Trail can be a bucket list to do during your lifetime. A 71-year-old man from Massachusetts started in Georgia and walked the whole thing in just four months - all to help soldiers, fellow veterans and their families.

He is helping heroes with his cross country hike that started in the peach state.

“I turned it into a job. I didn’t, I was full steam ahead the whole hike. I only took one day off,” hiker and vet David Manca said.

David Manca set a goal for himself to hike the entire Appalachian trail...not something he ever thought he’d do.

“I’ve done a few couple short hikes but not a hiker per se,” he said.

Manca walked the daunting 2200 mile trail in just a little more than four months. Starting in Georgia, he made his way all the way up to the finish line in Maine. He walked 10 to 12 hours a day and faced extreme weather and physical obstacles.

“There was a few that were quite dangerous and when you get to a river, I hike alone. So I’m usually alone. So there was nobody there to watch you cross. So if something happens, you’re on your own,” Manca said.

He did it all for a good cause - the Tunnel to Towers Foundation.

“They do a lot of great things for families of fallen first responders, military, severely handicapped military and gold star families,” he added.

As a veteran from a military family, it’s a cause close to his heart.

“If I’m having a bad day, wake up in the morning all soaking wet, which I did many, many mornings, just think of them guys that are never gonna walk again, some of them. And that gave me a lot of ambition there to forget about my troubles on the trail and just keep hiking,” Manca said.

The months-long hike for service members and their families was also an adventure, which even included a run-in with police who woke him up while looking for some fugitives that were on the trail.