On April 24th, 347 Veterans gathered in Fort Worth, Texas to hike for a cause. Veterans came together from all over the country for the ultimate mission - prevent Veteran suicide with humor, camaraderie, and connection.
The hike wound all throughout Ft. Worth – from the Trinity Trail, into Downtown Fort Worth and into West 7th neighborhood. Stops were made at the Historic Montgomery Plaza, First Flight Park, Major Ripley Memorial, Sundance Square, Ft. Worth Water Gardens, T&P Rail Station, the Fort Worth Police & Firefighters Memorial… pretty much anywhere in Ft. Worth worth seeing. We came, we saw, we hiked.
The hike started with an incredible performance of the National Anthem by Deanna Wheeler, setting the tone for a great hike and a day of camaraderie, humor and good times. Nevermind the flyby of the Air One Ft. Worth PD helicopter at the West 7th bridge – talk about some local love.
Speaking of local love, the support from the Ft. Worth community was insane. Locals were stopping their vehicles when passing the hike to literally get out to share hugs, support, and laughs. The energy and vibe it brought to the entire hike was on another level.
"If at first you don't succeed - try, try again."
-Literally every Veteran anywhere
The mission of every IW hike is the same – prevent Veteran suicide by bringing Vets together with humor and camaraderie. This hike was one non-stop funny, emotional, supportive moment – but there were a few too great not to mention.
The pre-hike speech to kick off the hike was enough to reduce more than a few of us to tears. It touched on the importance of connecting, and the instant bonds and understanding that happens when Vets connect with one another. It was the ultimate embodiment of our biggest belief - connections save lives.
One frequent-flyer hiker was able to bring her 70-year-old veteran father with her after he had just fought a 14-month battle with cancer. And let us tell you what, he was a hell of a hiker. He didn't even judge a bunch of crazy Vets (too harshly, at least) for a group rendition of "I Want it That Way" at the T&P Tavern. If you're not aware, that's become the unspoken hymn of IW in recent years. What can we say?
We got to see three Marine boot camp sisters reunite after 14 years, tons of Father & Daughter duos hiking it out together and brothers and sisters joining up for the cause. We had a Gold Star wife of a fallen Marine join us as a volunteer and was there to share her husband's story. We got to watch the entire hike rally behind a Veteran amputee who wasn't sure he could make it through the whole thing. Turns out anything is possible with camaraderie (and a bunch of other crazy Veterans cheering you on the whole way.)
Huge shout out to a few local businesses that hosted us for stops along the way:
Flying Saucer - for the great atmosphere and great drinks & food
T&P Tavern - a local Tavern veteran-owned by Nate Weber, Desert Storm era Marine recon vet.
Your Mom's House & Whiskey Garden – another local restaurant veteran-owned by Jay Reed, Army Infantry Veteran.
City of Fort Worth - We’re lucky to have a great relationship with the city of Fort Worth and the Mayor’s Office, who are always readily available with anything we need – including police escorts. You guys make us feel welcome year after year.
This hike would not have been possible without our amazing sponsors & donors.
Veteran Television (VET Tv) - our National Presenting Sponsor this year who donated Free Silkies to giveaway at the hike, and handed out a free month of VET Tv to every hiker. VET Tv was set up with merch, stickers, and great conversation with hikers.
HEB - donated tons of beverages and snacks for hikers throughout the day.
Coca-Cola – donated Vitamin waters to keep a bunch of thirsty Vets hydrated all day long.
Marine Corps League- Cowtown Detachment - for their generous water donation!
Texas Gun Experience – donated items for our raffle.
Chica's Tacos- donated delicious breakfast burritos to kick off the day.
Speedee Oil Change & Auto Service Arlington – hosted a huge CarWash fundraiser to help raise money for the IW cause.
Lone Star Warriors Hockey Team -Hosted a fundraising hockey tournament to drive awareness and raise money for our cause
Local USA – donated the sound system for us to use and provided vehicle support, as well as T-shirt giveaways for Tug-O-War contest winners!
Breach or Bypass- donated morning coffee. (You guys are lifesavers, seriously!)
22KILL- was an ongoing ally for partnership and event promotion for months leading up to the hike. Thanks so much for the support, guys!
Who Made it Possible
Jerry Neal (USMC, Sgt. E-5) - Lead Coordinator
Lauren Richardson - Volunteer Coordinator
ALL-STAR HIKE TEAM:
Daryl Sullivan (USAF, SrA E-4)
John Szemett (USMC, Sgt E-5)
Lavon Erwin (USMC, Cpl E-4)
Matt Gonazalez (USMC & USN, Cpl E-4)
Paige Lewis (USMC, Cpl E-4)
This is a group of local area veterans that are passionate about Irreverent Warriors, Silkies Hikes, Mental Health & Veteran Suicide Prevention.
JOIN THE DEBAUCHERY
Big things are happening for this hike next year!
If you want to get involved, reach out via the IW Texas Facebook Page. We’re always looking to add extra hands to the team!
If you're looking for more hikes to attend this year (we certainly wouldn't blame you) you can find events in your area on the Irreverent Warriors website.
97% of the proceeds we raise at Irreverent Warriors goes directly to our mission - prevent Veteran suicide through connection, camaraderie, and humor. We're not into spreading awareness - we're into making a difference.
One Shared MissionaVET Tv is the proud National Sponsor for Irreverent Warriors in 2021. In addition to a $25,000 donation matching initiative, every ticket to an IW Silkies Hike comes with a free month subscription to VET Tv.
***Blog Photo Credit*** The photos used in this blog are photos collected from those shared by hikers, coordinators, volunteers, and attendees of Silkies Hikes. If you'd like individual credit for a photo that shared, please reach out at email@example.com so we can accredit it.