Flags of Honor Hike recognizes veterans

8 years ago
By Stuart Hedstrom
Piscataquis Observer Staff Writer
PO WALK 29 16 18090991Staff photo/Stuart Hedstrom
On July 16 the Wilderness Walk for Warriors “Flags of Honor Hike” started in Monson as 20 participants began the near 120-mile journey north to Mount Katahdin to honor fallen members of the armed forces and first-responders as well as raise funds to assist veterans and their families. Speaking at a pre-departure ceremony outside the Monson Center for Community and Commerce Wilderness Walk for Warriors was co-founder Tim Robinson, left, and his brother and founder Chris Robinson.

MONSON, Maine — For the third year in a row a group, this year comprised of about 20 individuals, is hiking approximately 120 miles over 10 days from in-town Monson to the summit of Mount Katahdin through the 100-Mile Wilderness along the Appalachian Trail. This year’s themed “Flags of Honor Hike” supports the Wilderness Walk for Warriors, raising money for Maine veterans and service members and honoring the nation’s fallen heroes.

During the late morning of July 16 members of the Wilderness Walk for Warriors team departed from Bangor by the Maine Army National Guard Base for a 60-mile ride to the Monson Center for Community and Commerce, escorted by the Patriot Riders of America. The Maine State Police lead the procession with team members transported in a pair of Downeast Emergency Management Institute humvees.

Shortly before 1 p.m. the roar of motorcycles could be heard in downtown Monson as the procession arrived from Bangor. Those waiting for the team and their escort enjoyed a barbeque served by Monson’s American Legion Post 116 and the Wilderness Walk for Warriors First Volunteer Group.

The outdoor bandstand had the country’s and American Legion’s flags flying and was decorated with other red, white and blue decorations as the Flags of Honor Hike opening ceremony began. Wilderness Walk for Warriors co-founder Tim Robinson — himself a veteran of the U.S. Navy — began by thanking the crowd for attending and saying, “This is our third year.”

Robinson’s brother and organization founder Chris Robinson also thanked everyone for attending the hike kickoff. He said the team would be walking the near 120 miles to the top of Mount Katahdin, “All in honor of our service members and raising money for them.”

Each of the Flags of Honor Hike participants raises pledges, such as for each mile traveled or at a flat amount. The team members will have a hiking staff and attached to the staff will be a specific Flag of Honor including those for POW/MIA, KIA, Honor and Remember, American Legion, Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, National Guard and multiple American flags.

Robinson said in the fall of 2013, at the age of 47, he was hiking by himself when he thought, “‘I have never served my country or done anything like that, what can I do?’” Robinson then had an idea of combining his love of hiking and the outdoors with giving back to those who have served. After talking with his brother Wilderness Walk for Warriors was born.

“It has nothing to do with us because we do it for them, and that’s what we need to remember,” Robinson said about those assisted by the endeavor.

He said he would be hiking for several individuals this year. One is Robinson’s University of Maine-Fort Kent fraternity brother Craig Feeney, who passed away from cancer and was a firefighter in Cranston, R.I.

Robinson said attached to his backpack would be the Maine State Police license plate 616 on behalf of the late Trooper Glenn Strange of Houlton. Robinson asked the audience to look at the license plate visible in the trailer carrying his gear up from Bangor.

When the Flags of Honor Hike concludes at the summit of Mount Katahdin, an American flag will be displayed that had previously been flown above the U.S. Capitol. The folded flag was presented Chris and Tim Robinson from the office of U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-Maine).

Tim Robinson said he has been asked why he and others work to raise funds to assist veterans and members of the military, with some suggesting this aid is carried out by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

“It’s pretty easy,” Robinson said. He said Wilderness Walk for Warriors recently funded a wheelchair ramp for a veteran in Derby to enable him to get out of his home “and there was no VA giving money for that.”

“We are here to support those people, that’s what we are doing,” Robinson said. “These people are patriots.”

“What can be better than patriots, bikes and veterans?,” Randy Kluj of Milo American Legion Post 41 said. Kluj explained that around Thanksgiving and Christmas Wilderness Walk for Warriors has provided about a week’s worth of meals for veterans and families in need in eastern Piscataquis County and elsewhere.

“That’s where all this money is going, right into our own communities in the state,” Kluj said.

Tim Robinson concluded the ceremony by saying that several team members will be bringing their phones to update the hike progress on Facebook — which can be found under “Wilderness Walk for Warriors.”