MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
When it comes to giving back to his country, Mike Mobley has given it his all. His twin sons joined the service in the fall of 2004, one joined the U.S. Marine Corps and the other joined the U.S. Army. With both sons in the military, his drive for supporting troops throughout the country quickly became evident to those around him.
Stationed out of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., Mike’s son, Sgt. James R. Mobley, an infantry team leader with Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, is currently deployed to Afghanistan. When Mobley told his family what he planned on doing to support his son and fellow service members, their reaction came as no surprise, he said.
“It’s called Operation Hero Trek and basically what I am doing is walking from our hometown in Colorado all the way to Lejeune, which is roughly 2,000 miles,” said Mobley. “The first response I get from most people is, ‘you’re crazy!’ But once they start thinking about it and realize how much I’ve been planning and what it’s for, they start asking me what they can do to help.”
Mobley hits the road March 24, and preparation for the trek started more than a year ago. He said he trains each day and has been pushing himself harder and harder so he can make it to Camp Lejeune in time for his son’s homecoming.
“I’ve been training for about the last eight months at about 10 to 20 miles of walking per day, depending on how tired I get,” said Mobley. “Once the trek starts my objective is to walk 20 miles per day with a goal of arriving at Camp Lejeune on or before the 30th of June.”
Because the military isn’t allowed to give homecoming dates so far in advance, Mobley said he had to estimate the date his son was coming home and left plenty of room for error so he wouldn’t miss it. He explained it was better not know the date. He didn’t want to arrive there on the exact day and have all of the attention on him. He said the focus of his trek is supposed to be on all of the service members who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty and the ones who are currently serving.
“He wants to raise awareness and keep people informed on what’s going on in the U.S. military to keep it in the forefront of everybody’s mind,” said Mobley’s long time friend and neighbor Tom Witowski. “It helps people remember that these people are out there fighting, getting injured and dying for us and to not just take light of it.”
Witowski spent more than 20 years in the Navy where he spent a lot of time preparing missions and retired as a lieutenant commander, he said. When Mobley told him about the trek, Witowski said there was no way he was going to let his friend do it alone and they both started planning together.
“We had ideas going back and forth off each other and we wanted to get some foundations involved, so we called around and got some participants,” said Witowski.
It didn’t take long before a whole slew of supporters and organizations jumped on board. People all over the country started donating money and volunteered to join them at different stopping points along the way where they would hike for certain distances, said Witowski.
“So far we’ve got Adaptive Adventures, The Fisher House Foundation, The Greatest Generations Foundation and the Wounded Warrior Project that we’re raising money for,” said Mobley. “All of the contributions go completely to the foundations; we’re not keeping anything for ourselves. If people want to help they can go to my website at www.operationherotrek.com.”
Mobley plans on staying at campgrounds along the way and contacted several churches who said they had no problem giving him a place to stay, a warm meal and a hot shower. Although he’s going to miss his grandchildren, two daughters and wife, he said the physical aspect of the trek will be the toughest to overcome.
“Walking those 2,000 miles is going to be the hardest,” said Mobley. “Doing this is kind of like facing the unknown because I don’t know what’s going to be at the next stop. A lot of preparation has gone into this but I know it will be worth all of the time and effort in the end.”