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Conflict, PTSD, and Healing from the Trail – Tim Keenan

July 14, 2017

“This is the enemy. This is happening right now.”

In 1968, Tim Keenan and his brothers lived out the ugliest side of humanity in Vietnam. Nearly 40 years later, and still wrestling with PTSD, Tim thru-hikes all 2178.3 miles of the Appalachian Trail, and tells of the healing.

3:52 – “Everyone is going to Vietnam, and half of us aren’t coming home.”

After Tim and his roommates get drafted, he finds himself at Tigerland for basic training for heavy weapons infantry. Tim shares anecdotes of his time in Vietnam, some comical, but most harrowing.

17:00 – “I’m not Tim anymore.”

Tim returns home and realizes at twenty years old, he’s not the same. Thus begins the long fight against PTSD. Tim’s struggle was such that he couldn’t enjoy being in the woods without getting sweaty hands and being overcome with anxiety. By his early 60s, Tim decided that he needed to do something to overcome his fear of being outdoors.

21:57 – “The last time I hiked was Vietnam.”

He made a promise to a friend that he would hike for thirty days before quitting, which he scoffed at initially. Within the first 70 miles, he’s already endured enough blizzard, loneliness, and fatigue that he’s made up his mind to abandon the whole thing. 2100+ miles was looking to be more than he bargained for.

33:45 – “I survived the storm.”

Tim has his breakthrough moment. The sun shining on his face one morning after several awful days becomes a metaphor for his life journey. “I’m gonna have bad days, and I’m gonna have a lot of good days.” He talks of the comaraderie on the trail, the encouragement, and his restored faith in humanity.

44:26 – “She had a smile on her face, of being proud, and I just started crying.”

Tim talks about the home stretch to Mount Katahdin, and the elation that came with completing his journey.

47:35 – “Didn’t you do that because of Vietnam?”

Talking about his time in Vietnam was once impossible for Tim. The hike changed everything for him. So after a prompt from a friend, Tim decides to write The Good Hike: A Story of the Appalachian Trail, Vietnam, PTSD, and Love

For more on Tim Keenan and his story, check out the film Naneek, which documents Tim’s journey back to Vietnam to give and receive forgiveness with the people who were once his enemy. 

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