After being on the water for over two months, two Army veterans found themselves on the shores of Vicksburg on Wednesday night.
Jim O’Neal and Jack Barry have been paddling on the river since June 15 as part of the “Warrior Expedition”, a nonprofit that sponsors expeditions for veterans.
Warrior Expeditions was founded by marine Sean Gobin who completed several tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He got back and hiked the Appalachian trail, calling it “walking off the war”. He found it therapeutic and now sponsors expeditions for other veterans.
O’Neal and Barry are paddling the Mississippi River from Northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. Before the expedition, neither veteran knew each other but they have been on quite the adventure ever since and they have about 10 days of travel left.
“We’re headed to the Gulf of Mexico so as soon as I taste salt I’ll know that we are there,” O’Neal said jokingly. “This whole ordeal is to help veterans through camaraderie and physical and mental challenges through these expeditions and kinda help work through issues with the war and getting back into society in a positive outdoor environment.”
As they paddled their way into Vicksburg, O’Neal and Barry were greeted by Vicksburg native and owner of Patriot Motor Sports Allen Pugh who graciously put the two up into a hotel for the night along with Dan Fordice.
“We call them ‘Warrior Angels’ because people like Mr.Pugh and Mr. Fordice step in and make sure that we’re fed and able to get a good night’s rest.”
The two veterans will be back on the Mississippi River on Thursday as they are near the end of their expedition.
To learn more about the Warriors Expedition, visit their website at https://warriorexpeditions.org/.See a typo? Report it here.