For Tim Tuomey, the summer began with snow.
The 51-year-old from Twain Harte, California, is hiking the 2,600-mile Pacific Crest Trail with support from Marine Corps detachments all along the West Coast.
He just passed through Linn County on his way south to the Mexican border. When he began his trek on June 12 at the Canada-Washington border, he had to follow a GPS because snow covered the trail.
Tuomey, a Marine Corps veteran, is hiking to raise money and awareness for the Semper Fi Fund. The fund provides financial help and lifetime support to post-9/11 wounded, critically ill and injured members of all branches of the armed forces and their families. The group's mission is to ensure those military personnel have resources during their recovery and can make the transition back to their communities.
“When I was in the Marine Corps, I was trained by guys who served in Vietnam," he told the Democrat-Herald. "I was a recon Marine. Those jobs required a high level of professionalism. Without these guys, I probably wouldn’t be alive today.”
Tuomey said his trainers talked about the poor treatment they received on coming home from the war. The stories stayed with Tuomey, who has been haunted by their stories of lack of support.
"To me, it's a scar that society will never be able to shun away from," he said.
Marines, he said, shake off their personal feelings. "What really kills them every day is to watch their family suffer."
That's why, to Tuomey, support of the Semper Fi Fund is so critical: It helps support the families of the soldiers who are trying to find their way back to a normal life, whether that's physically, mentally or emotionally.
“I do it for my brothers and sisters, but it’s the families," he said. "The sons and daughters and mothers and fathers and the despondency they deal with.”
Tuomey said he's always been drawn to expeditions. He's hiked in Alaska, South America and even Uzbekistan. Next up: a trek across the polar caps.
In 2012, his first Semper Fi effort, which he dubbed Operation Awakening, involved riding a touring bike all the way from the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, California, to Camp Lejeune, in North Carolina, the home of the 2nd Marine Division, where Tuomey had served. It took 62 days and raised some $55,000.
The Pacific Crest Trail hike is Operation Awakening II: The Long Patrol. He's 635 miles into his adventure with 2,100 to go. His goal this time is to raise $100,000 specifically for The Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund.
Tuomey figures the hike will take approximately four months. When he finishes, he'll head to Camp Pendleton, home of the 1st Marine Division. He said he hopes to arrive on Nov. 10, the birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps.
He's already racked up several adventures in just a month's worth of travel. In Washington, for instance, a 600-pound grizzly bear wandered through his camp one night.
He's also lost about 12 pounds so far, which is a slight concern. But Marine Corps leagues in each state are meeting him at various points to provide food and supplies. Santiam Detachment No. 374 met him on Wednesday, bringing him lunch and giving him a ride to Sisters to restock and sleep indoors for a night.
On Thursday morning, Tuomey hitchhiked back to his starting point and headed south again.
"Thank you to the Santiam Detachment for once again showing me what this brotherhood means," he posted on his Operation Awakening Facebook page, which can be followed at http://bit.ly/2eS7plW. "Always Faithful, Always by my side … "