The thought of hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT), which is 2,200 miles, may seem daunting and even dangerous to most people. But then again, Rob Weisberg is not like most people. He's a 9/11 hero who suffers from mental health challenges due to his first responder efforts during the attack on the nation on September 11, 2001. He is now hiking the AT to raise awareness about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and raise funds for Paws of War to help support their PTSD-related work.
So far, along the hike, he has suffered several falls, has lost over 60lbs, and has struggled with being away from his family, Chip, friends and fellow firefighters. Less than 25% of people who attempt the full hike finish it, but even though his PTSD has kicked in many times, he continues due to sheer determination and desire to help people suffering has kept him going.
"We are in awe of Rob Weisberg, and the mission is taking on in hiking the AT,” says Robert Misseri, co-founder of Paws of War. “We are happy to be teamed up with him to help raise awareness about PTSD and fundraise so that we can help more veterans and first responders with our programs.”
Weisberg is currently a volunteer firefighter with the Commack Fire Department in New York, which is a role he has been at over 29 years. On the morning of 9/11 Weisberg was just coming out of the subway as the first plane hit the towers. Instead of turning back to safely, Rob’s instincts took over, and he ran to FDNY Ten House, located right across the street for the World Trade Center. He alone set up a triage and began helping victims that started streaming into the firehouse. While providing care one of the planes engines smashed through the roof barley missing him. When the towers collapsed Weisberg and everyone inside were trapped under debris. He broke through the back wall of the station and lead everyone to safely. For hours and hours on that day he saved lives. As a result, he has suffered health challenges that are still with him today. Growing up an Eagle Scout, he decided to help raise awareness and fundraise through something that seemed fitting – hiking the AT.
Setting out on the journey on March 11, 2023, he has been traveling along the trail from Georgia to Maine. He shares his journey with people on this Facebook page and through videos. He wants more people to know about issues like PTSD, which impact many veterans and first responders. He suffered in silence for years, until his wife encouraged him to reach out to Paws of War, who gave him a service dog named Chip. That’s when his life began to turn around.
Paws of War is asking people to come out and show their support for Weisberg in person, and online. They are asking people to help support his cause, which is to raise money so more veterans and first responders suffering from PTSD can get a service dog.
According to the National Institutes of Health, PTSD is a disorder in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event. PTSD symptoms usually begin within three months of the traumatic event and last for at least a month. The symptoms are severe enough that they interfere with the person's life. While some people can recover within six months, others have it much longer. Some symptoms include having flashbacks of the event, recurring dreams of the event, experiencing distressing thoughts, and physical signs of stress.
Many people with PTSD are easily startled, tense, have difficulty concentrating, feel irritable, and may have trouble sleeping and eating. Those in the military are at a slightly higher risk of experiencing PTSD.
By raising awareness about PTSD and mental health challenges and raising funds to support the Paws of War efforts, Weisberg will ensure more people can get help. The organization rescues dogs from shelters, gives them professional training to become service dogs, and then places them for free with a veteran or first responder. His dog has only one more evaluation before being able to become an approved service dog officially.
"This is an amazing experience, and I'm happy to be able to do it," says Rob Weisberg. "I wanted to do something to help the many people suffering, and this will do it. That's a great feeling."
To help support the mission Weisberg is on and make a donation, visit the site at: https://pawsofwar.networkforgood.com/projects/185340-robs-hike
Paws of War has been operating worldwide since 2014, helping the military save the animals they rescue while deployed overseas. They have helped veterans with numerous issues, including suicide prevention, service and support dogs, companion cats and dogs, food insecurity, veterinary care, etc. Paws of War has a large loyal following of supporters and looks forward to working with new corporate sponsors to support these life-saving programs. To donate, visit its site at: http://pawsofwar.org.