KRISTEN CREECH and William Moseback are walking from Maine to Florida to raise money to help veterans, active-duty military and their families, as well as to inspire others they meet along the way to help. On Tuesday, a volunteer and Brunswick resident, Jim Bridge, right, gives the couple directions to his house where they will walk next before ending the day’s journey.

KRISTEN CREECH and William Moseback are walking from Maine to Florida to raise money to help veterans, active-duty military and their families, as well as to inspire others they meet along the way to help. On Tuesday, a volunteer and Brunswick resident, Jim Bridge, right, gives the couple directions to his house where they will walk next before ending the day’s journey.

When Kristen Creech and William Mosebach decided they wanted to do a hike between their home state of Florida and Maine, Creech figured “if we’re going to do something this crazy, we need to do it for a charity.”

But which one?

Creech, 25, posted on her Facebook page that she was looking for a charity to help. A friend answered by suggesting Hike for Our Heroes, “and we were sold immediately.”

Hike for Our Heroes consists of teams of people who raise money for Active Heroes, a volunteer-led charity that provides financial assistance and job placement to veterans, active-duty military and their families.

The “pipe dream” to hike for heroes became reality very fast, Creech said, but the two prepared for the hike over the course of three or four months, routing the roughly 2,500-mile journey from Calais to Florida, and researching and purchasing the gear they would need along the way.

Neither was an experienced hiker.

“They say the only way you can ever prepare for a 2,500- mile hike is to hike 2,500 miles,” Creech said. “We knew that going in, but we did some hikes around our town and trails and (trained on) treadmills.”

They’ve encountered some hilly terrain in Maine but haven’t had to camp out much. They stay with volunteers, or may have a hotel room or campsite donated along the way. They generally follow the East Coast Greenway trail, deviating only to reach volunteers or for fundraisers.

On Monday, the couple reached Lisbon, where they continued their hike Tuesday through Topsham before traversing the Frank J. Wood Bridge over the Androscoggin River into Brunswick and down Maine Street toward volunteer Jim Bridge’s home where they stayed the night. Today, they are walking to Freeport.

Mosebach, 31, is an Army veteran and was a paratrooper with the 173rd Airborne Brigade who made a jump into Bashur airfield in northern Iraq. He served more than four years as an Airborne medic.

He said he has friends who are out of the service, and has met many other veterans and all seem to have some sort of problem, “and I was wondering who helps these people, and who helps their families?”

“The ones with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, if they decide to take their own lives, who helps their families? And that’s what it is, that’s the bottom line,” he said.

“What we would like to see change with our charity when this is over” is more focus on PTSD in addition to fundraising and raising awareness.

The couple wants to raise $50,000 on their pilgrimage to establish an endowment for veterans’ care in Florida. One of the main focuses of the charity foundation is establishing such endowments in all 50 states, Mosebach said. The remaining funds raised from their hike will go directly to military families.

“Our main message,” Mosebach said, “is that anybody can step up and do this in some way, shape or form; all it takes is a little initiative.”

Creech said the Active Heroes website makes it easy to get involved.

“We didn’t know we were capable of affecting people on this level, but we find out more and more each day that, when we come into contact with the families of veterans who were killed in action, it’s an emotional experience talking to them,” Mosebach said. “You become very gracious. You develop a respect that is just unparalleled for our countrymen and our troops.”

Creech added, “It’s turned out to be a lot more than what it started as; and it started as a lot — helping and supporting vets. And now, it’s like we give a lot of people some kind of comfort in knowing that we’re walking for their children and siblings, and it’s just very touching.”

In these moments when they meet the families of lost service members, “You don’t always know what to say,” Mosebach said, “but the most important thing is to say ‘thank you.’ That is what really needs to be said.”

The couple still wear the dog tags given by Sandra and Jimmy Troutt bearing the picture of Spec. Dustin Harris, the grandson they lost in Bayji, Iraq, in 2006.

The Troutts, of Sherman, surprised the couple in Hampden last month when they met up with Creech and Mosebach to give them a quilt Sandra Troutt made by hand, along with the dog tags.

Mosebach said it’s important to the families of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice that their sacrifice not be forgotten. The hikers write the names of fallen military heroes they walk in honor of, on a dry erase board they carry with them for all to see. A picture goes up on Facebook so families can see they are walking for their loved one.

They’ve been surprised many times by the impact they’ve had on people, getting stopped and honked at often during their journey.

Earlene Ingram of Maine Ornamental planned a 6-mile fundraising walk. During it, “We came up to a school of children just lining the road and they were cheering for us,” Mosebach said, noting the children from three schools and two businesses waited out in the rain for them that day at Monmouth Academy. “And it was just such a surreal experience. I became extremely elated.”

They gave the kids highfives and gathered for a big group picture, Mosebach said

A school in Machias did a bottle drive to raise money for the cause. They have a meetand greet scheduled at Bruno’s Restaurant and Tavern in Portland Thursday. They also are planning to walk a 10-K in Boston for suicide prevention.

Creech and Mosebach also got to join the troop greeters at the Bangor International Airport in late September where they got to send off members of the Army and greet incoming Air Force servicemen.

The couple expects their walk through Maine to be very memorable.

And when their morale as at its lowest and they’re ready to sit down and give up, “We always come into contact with somebody, whether it be a volunteer or random person, who just says one word of thanks to us, and it’s a second wind,” Mosebach said.

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¦ FOLLOW CREECH AND MOSEBACH on Facebook at www.facebook.com/HikeForHeroes.org. For more information about Active Heroes and Hike for our Heroes, visit www.ActiveHeroes.org, email [email protected] or call 502-386-6610. Donations by check can be mailed to P.O. Box 197825, Louisville, KY 40259.


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