If anyone in this country was not already aware of the fact that 22 veterans are killing themselves a day, they probably live in the wilderness. It’s already advertised all over the news and social media.
This hike serves two very important purposes:
1) To serve as therapy for combat veterans.
2) To bring awareness to this-
Those who haven’t been to combat cannot expect to help someone who has demons from combat. The only way combat veterans will heal is in the company of each other. We must get together and support each other the same way we did in combat. We must remind each other that the brotherhood and camaraderie will never die.
With that being said, the hike is not intended for anyone except for those who at one point put a lot of weight on their backs and hiked with a unit. The hike will only be therapeutic if the combat veterans who participate feel safe, and feel like they are in the company of brothers and sisters who have shared experiences in the darkest part of humanity- combat.
It is only in this environment that these combat veterans will open up to each other about the demons that live inside them. When they speak about their demons, and someone else speaks about their demons, it creates a powerful amount of support that they cannot and will not find anywhere else.
Please understand, this hike will not be effective as THERAPY FOR COMBAT VETERANS if it is full of civilians. Not to mention, carrying 50 pounds for 13 miles will hurt a lot of civilians who have never done it before.
Why do we hike with weight?
Hiking has been an important part of military culture and training since the beginning of time. Hiking together gives us all the same mission, and requires us all to endure some mental and physical pain as we achieve the mission. We combat and non-combat veterans, enjoy the camaraderie created during shared misery. We like the way the pain brings out the best in us. We enjoy laughing hysterically as we’re in terrible pain. We love the nostalgia created by a bunch of warriors banded together, carrying weight on our backs, and marching with a purpose.
Why 22 kg?
22 pounds is way too light to make any of us suffer. 22 kilograms is enough to put us in a decent amount of pain. We need to feel the pain to put us all on the same page, to make it challenging, and give us another thing to laugh about.
Why 22 km?
22 miles is too long, and there are not enough vets who can hike that distance. Plus, logistically, that’s far too long to plan a route in most cities.
Why do we stop at bars?
Bars have been an important part of military culture since the beginning of time. Warriors have gone to the bars immediately after battles to drink, laugh, and forget about the ugliness of war.
Why do we do hike in silkies?
As with all Irreverent Warriors events, we want the event to be full of laughter. Uncomfortably short and tight silkies on a big strong man will make any man or woman chuckle. Marines and Soldiers have been wearing silkies since at least the 1950s. They are an old military tradition that has been eliminated by the military- that we choose to revive because of the nostalgia and the laughter that they create.
What is the most important part of these silkie hikes?
The knowledge that veterans are not alone, and have far more support from each other than they ever imagined.
What is the second most important part of these hikes?
The individual connections that veterans make with each other.
What does hiking in silkies have to do with PTSD and suicide?
The event itself is therapeutic to veterans. It makes us feel nostalgic, it makes us laugh, it makes us feel a sense of purpose, it reminds us that the brotherhood and camaraderie that we once had in the military will always be there, and we’ll always be there for each other.
1) The laughter provides for a fun and easy going environment that allows veterans to feel comfortable, open, and safe.
2) As we hike we talk to each other. We talk about demons from combat. We talk about what it’s like adjusting to civilian life. We talk about our divorces, our jobs we aren’t happy with, our lack of jobs, and our families who we love but are struggling to understand us.
3) We all realize that we’re going through the same thing. We act shocked the first someone says, “Dude, I’ve been going through the exact same shit.” Then a few hours later we’re not shocked, because we realize we are all more alike than we thought.
4) We get each other’s numbers, emails, and add each other on social media. We promise to stay in touch, and we brainstorm ways to hold more events for other veterans in the future.
5) We stay in contact and create a get together for all of our friends at someone’s house or at a bar, a few weeks later. We create a veteran softball team, bowling team, and basketball team. We realize how good we feel in the company of other veterans, and we make a point to reach out to more veterans. We tell our veteran friends to reach out to more veterans, and they do the same. The result is a resurgence in veteran support and communication with each other, similar to what our veterans experienced after World War 2.
With an increase in support and communication for/with each other, veterans can improve quality of life for each other through group therapy (as simple as a get together in someone’s living room), job placement, and reunions-
the END RESULT is fewer veterans who kill themselves.
For civilians- The best way to help a combat vet you love, is to tell them to show up to this.
Keep the hike to combat vets, let them have their therapy, and meet them at the bars with loving arms, loving women, and pitchers of beer. (No liquor, bad idea)
Everyone who is interested in creating this event, please copy the format that was used by the creators of the Houston Texas event.
These devil dogs took our format and made it their own, while also showing incredible love and respect to the San Diego boys who put a lot of effort into creating this organization.
It’s very easy to get a small group of friends to come out for this, so please don’t worry about getting hundreds or thousands of people. If you get 2 people to show up- your event was a success, because the two of you will feel better about yourselves, your demons, and your life. Try again a month later, and I promise you’ll have more than 2.
How to create your own hike
1- Create a Facebook Event using the Houston Format, tell me, and I’ll promote it on this website under EVENTS. https://www.facebook.com/events/477844045712263/
2- Tell your combat veteran and non combat veteran friends that it’s important to have them there with you. (All you need is one other person to hike with you for this to be a success)
3- Send a press release to local media and all veterans organizations including the VA. All you need is for one reporter to bite, and that will help get the word out so that other veterans show up. We had a spot on the news 2 days before the hike, and veterans came from two hours away came because they saw the news spot.
4- Contact Bars and restaurants and ask them to give you cheap drinks and expedited service in exchange for your business and your media coverage.
5- Contact local police and tell them what you’re doing.
6- Have a plan to make sure no one drives drunk. (I rented a party bus for the ride home, Houston had a local Ford Raptor truck club, HARO, provide safety vehicles, water vehicles, and rides) I recommend doing what Houston did.
7- Make sure that every possible question is answered on the event page, including all gear needed, locations, times, parking, a map of the route, and anything else that is worth mentioning so that anyone can read it and show up.
8- Map out the route using something like routebuilder.org and post the route on the website.
9- Start and finish the hike in a park, field, or lake where people can cool off with immense amounts of water. Take your pictures together, then send the pics to me to post on here.
10- Head to a restaurant to eat and drink water so no one dies!
A good friend of mine came to the event and didn’t know a single person except for me. I’d like to share something he emailed me about the event and gave me permission to share. It almost brought tears to my eyes.
“I vaguely remembered that my good friend Danny (Donny O’Malley) had set up some sort of crazy Marine shenanigans for the weekend but to be honest, I’d dismissed it as being less than it turned out to be. The last few months have been a wierd haze of lonliness and disconnect from my friends, family, and unit. I’ve spent more nights than I should drinking solo at the bar just to avoid a few hours of sitting at home alone, living on delivery food, etc, in a nutshell, big old downward spiral. As I’m sitting alone the night before the hike, I get a text around 1am from Danny talking about how excited he is for the 22 for 22 suicide awareness hike the next morning- for which he had rallied together a ridiculous band of active duty Marines, vets, and others for some good old fashioned shenanigans. I’m not really sure what changed for me but I had a moment where i basically said “alright, fuck it man, I’m in. Ill see you in the morning.”
What followed was such an unbelievably therapeutic day, of bonding and ‘bro’ing out’ with a motley crew of my brothers, who I’d never met, who have all in one way shape or form been exactly where I have been lately. The instant friendship, acceptance, and brotherhood at this thing was absolutely unreal. A carefree, belligerently genuine and positive side of the Marine Corps that tends to somewhat disappear during peacetime.
As we hiked our 22k through the beautiful southern california coast i had the amazing experience of talking to dozens of guys and girls who were immediately open about their own demons and fully receptive and supportive of each others. I guess its hard to really sum the day up for someone who hasn’t experienced this gun club.. I mean, from the outside looking in we are probably a bunch of inappropriate, irreverent, immature frat boys, but there is such a deep passion, love, and solidarity there between brothers- that to come together for a day like this just recharges the mind and soul. That little cloud of depression that has followed me around for months, maybe longer, I dont know – anyway, yesterday it was gone. I’m still riding the high of having such an amazing time and I’m under no illusion that I’m suddenly “better” – I know its a long road back to healthy from where ive been – but this ridiculous day out in our underwear with the guys from irreverent warriors has really made me believe what my friends, family, and chain of command have been telling me – there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and if you keep your brothers close, they will get you there. If anybody out there is dealing with ptsd, depression, divorce, whatever it may be, you aren’t alone and there is strength in numbers. Reach out, hell, get in touch with any of the guys from yesterdays hike. Active, retired, whatever, yesterday reaffirmed for me the no matter the battlefield, physical or emotional, Marines will always look out for their own and sometimes the best medicine for the type of shit we tend to deal with, is just closing ranks, getting together, and having a good talk or laugh. Danny – thanks so much for putting this thing on brother. Yesterday meant a whole lot, to a whole lot of people.
As my friend expressed vents like this have tremendous therapeutic power.
I kindly ask that everyone who creates this event in their home city please tell me, please link back to this page, and to irreverentwarriors.com. That way I can keep track of ALL YOUR events, and can post your events on the website.
When I created this organization my goal was to have small Irreverent Warriors groups pop up all over the country. I wanted to create a brand and community that encouraged and inspired veterans to reach out, love, and support each other. My goal was never to raise a bunch of money, and contrary to what’s been in the news, it hasn’t been to simply raise awareness.
My goal was to INSPIRE ACTION AMONGST COMBAT VETERANS TO GET TOGETHER.
We don’t heal when other people know about our struggle; we heal when we get together, laugh, and support each other.
With 10 other hikes already planned in other parts of the country, I can see it’s already happening. 🙂 I just need to keep track.
Irreverent Warriors like to joke about death, dismemberment, war, and sex, because combat made our sense of humor very dark- but the underlying message beneath all the jokes is simple.
Combat veterans must get together to support each other, and when we do, the love we feel from one another will only be matched by the love from our own families. It’s both powerful and special.
This event has caught fire and spread like Ebola in West Africa last summer!
Everybody’s catchin’ the silkies bug!
Here is a list of cities who are hosting the “22, with 22, for the 22, in Silkies!” Hike. Please click on the Facebook event links for more information.
My bestie Ryan Loya put it best, “we were successful in combat because we fought our enemies as a single family unit, and we’ll be successful in the fight against our own demons if we fight them as a family.”
Please buy the tanks and help me pay for more events, more books, inappropriate comedy, and the youtube channel that I’m building to make combat vets laugh in the face of their demons.
Please continue taking action, getting together, supporting, and laughing!