Trekking on the Cateran Trail
It’s a cool 60 degrees with patchy rain as a group of U.S. Marines trek through the rugged Scottish Highlands. It’s a long road ahead. They have to cover 54 miles on foot in just 24 hours while traversing steep hills and winning competitions along the way.
These wounded warriors have voluntarily signed up for the rigorous Cateran Yomp. A yomp is a military term for a long-distance march. Hosted by Alliance Trust, the proceeds from the trek are donated to the Army Benevolent Fund The Soldier’s Charity to help United Kingdom soldiers rehabilitate—a program similar to the Wounded Warrior Project. Not only is it an alliance with other countries, but it’s also a chance to show how they’ve overcome challenges.
“The Yomp is a culminating event that these wounded Marines did. They earned their right to fight in war, and now they’ve come back to show they still got it,” said SSgt Casey R. Cook, a staff member at Wounded Warrior Battalion West.
Nearly 600 people participated in this year’s Cateran Yomp on Armed Forces Day, June 28, 2014.
The Marine Corps Association & Foundation helped fund the Marines’ trip to Scotland and rallied the MARSOC Foundation, the Semper Fi Fund and the Allied Forces Foundation to also assist. Three wounded Marines and six support staff Marines from the Wounded Warrior Regiment (WWR) attended the trip.
The yomp is a test of endurance. Teams must hike on the ancient cattle herding Cateran Trail through Scotland’s rugged Perthshire and Angus countryside. Stations are also set up throughout the trail to challenge participants in activities such as archery and skeet shooting.
“It’s very taxing on your body and feet,” said HM1 Leon Lewis, a corpsman at Wounded Warrior Battalion East.
The event was also an opportunity to build bonds with friends in the British army. The nine U.S. Marines were on a team with nine British soldiers. They were able to get to know each other in the small group, Cook said, and had “a rapport that clicked quickly.” They traded sea stories and swapped ideas on how each country’s programs met the needs of recovering wounded troops. Cook said it’s always important to foster that camaraderie with fellow nations.
“We have a mutual respect for our brothers in arms,” Lewis added.
The team joined together and showed that the wounded are not only capable, but can conquer a grueling endurance test of mental and physical feats along the Cateran Trail.
“When anyone hears the term ‘wounded’, people think of limits. Those wounds aren’t always visible. Just because wounds aren’t visible, doesn’t mean a Marine is not wounded,” Cook said. “This event allowed us to see worldwide that U.K. forces and U.S. Marines, despite being wounded, can complete mental and physical feats. It speaks volumes of the U.S. and U.K programs the civilians and military put in to dedicate to these wounded warriors.”
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- Roxanne Baker