Darden Executive MBA alumnus Sean Gobin (EMBA ’14) is making headlines in his effort to help U.S. military veterans cope with post-traumatic stress disorder and other difficulties tied to returning home from combat through his venture, Warrior Expeditions. People magazine recently featured the results Gobin and Warrior Expeditions are achieving to help vets reacclimate to life at home.

When Marine Corps veteran Sean Gobin first hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2012, his goal was to decompress from combat deployments that left him “a mental wreck.”

Gobin was shocked at how his outlook changed during the months-long journey. “Here I was, enjoying a conversation, and not expecting to be shot or stabbed,” he says.

By trail’s end, Gobin had a new mission: “I wanted to help other warriors walk off the war like I did.”

In 2013, Gobin formed a nonprofit that became Warrior Expeditions, sending 40 veterans per year on extended forays into the wild. The outings include eight trails, plus a Mississippi River kayak voyage, and a cross-country bicycle trek.

Gobin’s group gives participants everything they need: equipment, clothing, supplies and a small monthly stipend. The expeditions take anywhere from three to six months, and offer readjustment to civilian life after a combat zone.

Gobin is no stranger to accolades for his work helping vets “walk off the war.” Not long after launching his venture as a Darden student and only months after graduating, he was named a 2015 Top 10 CNN Hero and was a finalist for the network’s Hero of the Year Award.

“It’s been crazy. The reach of the CNN story is far and wide,” Gobin said. “A lot of folks want to reach out and congratulate us on the efforts of the program and a lot of veterans want to get involved.”

While every veteran on a hike has a unique experience, Gobin says participants typically highlight three major themes as particularly impactful:

  • Decompressing from their military service and coming to terms with wartime experiences.
  • Experiencing their journey with the camaraderie of other veterans who understand the challenges of transitioning from military service to civilian life.
  • Interacting with communities along the trail, which facilitates their reintegration into society, helps restore their faith in humanity and builds a network of life-long friendships.

Asked by People about the importance of helping veterans readjust to life back home, Gobin said the work became his purpose after experiencing how his own hike of the Appalachian Trail saved his life. “It’s my moral obligation to help.”