9/11 first responder hikes 1,800 miles to raise money, awareness for veterans

After more than five months of traversing the rugged terrain of the Appalachian Trail, Rob Weisberg's was given a hero's homecoming on Thursday.

"I’m happy," Weisberg said. "I haven’t been happy in over 20 years."

The journey, which began in March, saw Weisberg trade his usual firefighting gear for hiking gear when he set off on a close to 1800-mile adventure on the Appalachian Trail. 

Weisberg's goal was to raise money for Paws of War, a nonprofit that matches service dogs with vets and first responders - free of charge.

"I took this time to self-heal and unload a lot of baggage," he said.

As Weisberg walked the trails, the more than 40 pounds of gear he carried paled in comparison to the emotional and psychological weight he had carried for almost 22 years. 

A volunteer firefighter who witnessed the tragic events of 9/11 firsthand, Weisberg had suffered in silence for years, at one point considering ending his own life.

"My goal was if I can inspire one person to not head down the path I was headed, it’d be mission accomplished," Weisberg said.

Weisberg's efforts bore fruit, raising nearly $14,000 to support Paws of War's invaluable cause. However, the true cost of training a service dog hovers around $20,000. 

While Weisberg is no longer on the trail, his mission will continue through fundraising and awareness.

"We haven’t had anyone do something so courageous to want to help others," said Paws of War cofounder, Robert Misseri.

While Rob says the anniversary of 9/11 may never get easier, he hopes his journey will break the stigma for those who struggle with trauma.