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Veterans hike into the Montana wilderness for healing and camara - KRTV News in Great Falls, Montana

Veterans hike into the Montana wilderness for healing and camaraderie

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Eight members of the Montana Vet Program (MVP) loaded up their hiking gear and headed into the Bob Marshall Wilderness over the weekend. Eight members of the Montana Vet Program (MVP) loaded up their hiking gear and headed into the Bob Marshall Wilderness over the weekend.

Eight members of the Montana Vet Program (MVP) loaded up their hiking gear and headed into the Bob Marshall Wilderness over the weekend.

The MVP is the most recent group put together by Eagle Mount Great Falls. 

MVP program manager Luke Urick says the goal of the group is to promote healing through camaraderie and physical activity.

"One of the things that is neat about our program and our trips is that they will be veteran-led trips. We are going to rely on vet-to-vet healing instead of some of the other therapies that are out there," Urick said. 

Urick says they want to be able to organize hikes in Yellowstone National Park, Glacier National Park, and the Missouri River Breaks.

Shad Pepion recently met this group of veterans, and says they share a lot more than people may think.

He explained, "We have the same experiences. We probably ate at the same chow hall overseas and we have been in the same spots and same situations. Coming out here, we can share our experiences and share our stories."

Pepion said, "We are also veterans that have those problems too, so we are also healing ourself as well. It is getting that first-hand experience of knowing what it is like to go through that healing process."

Assistant Program Director Scott Moss says they are also using the hike through the Bob Marshall to launch their Marine Corps-inspired project - the "Pig Egg."

Moss explained, "It's where we take the 'Pig Egg' that we made, it contains 6,839 dog tags. Dog tags are very symbolic of the military, so it was a natural progression to the dog tags."

The dog tags represent the men and women who have given their lives during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, and the military operations still in progress.

Moss noted, "Every year we are going to update. At last count we will have to add 26 dog tags, so overseas operations are not going away."

He continued, "Our goal with the whole program is to get other veterans out and get them into the woods and teach them that you can 'suffer well.' Whether it is a physical injury or a TBI (traumatic brain injury) or PTSD, you can deal with those things in your day to day life well. It probably won't go away 100 percent, but you do not have to let it rule your life."

And as each member of the group carries the Pig Egg through the Bob Marshall, they will not only remember those that have been lost, but they will also "suffer well" with those that are still with us. 

Click here to visit the MVP website.

As for the phrase "pig egg" - here is the explanation:

The Pig portion of “Pig Egg” comes from the name given to Marines in Sniper platoons who have not gone to Sniper School. These individuals are labeled Pigs “Professionally Instructed Gunman”, and “Egg” refers to a very heavy sand bag that goes into a pigs (Professionally Instructed Gunman) pack, on top of all their other mission essential gear, hence “PIG EGG”. Pig Eggs usually weigh anywhere from 35 to 50 lbs. and are the tangible representation of the extra pain, effort, and suffering an individual needs to be willing to deal with in order to become a Marine Sniper.


The group recently shared the following video on Youtube along with this explanation:

In May of this year, 8 veterans hiked a Pig Egg (a 75 lb. bag full of the 6,839 individually named dog tags from the men and women who have given their lives in OIF and OEF) 50 miles in order to promote Eagle Mount Great Falls' Montana Vet Program. The adventure was captured by 5 veteran camera men and women. Our final product was 99% veteran made - and we're just getting started, enjoy.

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