On April 10th, over 250 Veterans gathered in Jacksonville, NC 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 started at the Northeast Creek Park, took a turn on Western Boulevard and finished downtown. The route takes the hike past a large area neighborhood (careful not to upset the residence, of course), but we have grown to love the support of the neighborhood members. They’ve started cheering us on with posters, and some even sit out on their porches waiting for us to come by. It’s enough to give you chills – local support means everything to IW!
Jacksonville is a city routed in deep military history- being home to Marine Corps Base camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station New River. Camp Lejeune has been a Jacksonville landmark sinch 1731. In addition, the first location of Mission BBQ (our second stop on the hike) was in Jacksonville on September 11, 2011. The restaurant is famous for being founded to support military, police, firefighters, and first responders – and they certainly didn’t disappoint this time around. Hats off to this great organization!
We broke into three formations of 50-75 hikers to stay COVID compliant. Every sponsor, hiker, volunteer, and donor were incredible about making sure we complied with city measures so we wouldn’t experience any problems. Down to the grills and equipment used for lunch, everything was sanitized and every safety precaution was taken. Shout out to the entire group for making it so easy to host such a monster hike despite the situation!
We had some great reunions on this hike - including for our coordinator Christal Dunaway. She saw her first roommate in the military for the first time since 2006, and was completely shocked. This hike embodied camaraderie with dancing, jokes, and story-telling at every turn.
We were humbled to have Iraq Veteran Earl Granville speak with the hike at Mission BBQ. He moved more than a few hikers to tears with not just his story, but his infectious always-moving-forward attitude and advice. His words were the perfect tribute to every Veteran who showed up our shared cause.
The mission of Irreverent Warriors - and of every Silkies Hike - is to bring veterans together to make connections and grow their support system. To quote our hike coordinator Christal Dunaway:
This hike will always be a big a$$ family reunion that you couldn't
pay me to miss. Vets - please reach out, you will be anything but judged here.
We love you - and that's not only at the hike.
- Christal Dunaway, Lead Coordinator
Massive thanks go out to a few local businesses and organizations that were a huge help in making this hike what it was.
Mission BBQ provided free drinks like soda, lemonade, and water for us on our stop there. We stayed while they played colors, which was a truly humbling moment.
Hooters Jacksonville - these guys were a pile of fun on our stop there. They each changed the business sign to read, "Welcome Irreverent Warriors Silkies Hike!" They provided a free appetizer for hikers at the stop, and were more than happy to double that donation this year after seeing the mass of hikers fill their restaurant last year!
AppleBee's Jacksonville - this great team was also happy to provide a free appetizer for hikers at our stop there. They had it packaged and waiting for us right on arrival. Thanks for keeping a bunch of hot, hungry hikers happy and fed!
Jacksonville Permit Office– They know coordinator Christal Dunaway so well by now, they always know why she's there every year when they see her. Thanks for the support and for helping the hike to go off without a hitch!
The Marine Corps League–Was there with a table at setup and helped us step-off, along with helping us promote the hike locally.
Disabled American Veterans–had a table at setup, brought great representatives to speak to hikers, and was a huge help in locally promoting the hike.
Hope for Warriors- a fellow non-profit that was so helpful at setup, also set up a booth, and helped a huge hike get stepped off. Thank you for the support!
Veteran Television (VET Tv) our 2021 National Presenting Sponsor (thanks for that free pair of Silkies to give away at the hike, too!)
A huge thank you to some local businesses who supported the hike through donation of food, water, supplies, and monetary donations. This hike could not have happened without you!
Dark Sea's Tattoo
American Society Tattoo Shop
The Groom Room
The Unique Bee (owner Katrina Carrington)
And a final shout out to the media companies in the area that gave us great press coverage and helped promote the event. Thank you, thank you!
101.9 Kiss F.M.
The Jacksonville Daily News
Who Made it Possible
Christal Dunaway- Lead Coordinator
Pamela Cruz- This lady not only got in touch with local Retired SGT Major Joseph Houle to join the festivities – but he came loaded with a huge double grill and 24 school-house devil pups. They were appreciated beyond measure, really fell in love with the IW mission, and served us all lunch to keep our sweaty hands from contaminating the food.
Bella Gross- Held down the fort in the rear. That included everything- from setting up, picking up the food, handling trash, check-in, to making sure those 24 devil pups were taken care of while we were on the hike. She quite literally holds down the fort, and is still a powerhouse after 6 years with IW!
Tina Suggs-is our resident upbeat, happy, silly, amazingly loving sweetheart. This is her second year with IW and she’s already planning for next. She set up, broke down, cleaned up, helping with food, and was on call at any given time. Nevermind the contagious energy she provides. It’s impossible to have a bad day with Tina around!
JOIN THE DEBAUCHERY
We're looking forward to another MASSIVE event in North Carolina next year. If you want to get involved with next year's hike or other events throughout the year, get more information at irreverentwarriors.com or reach out to hike coordinator Christal at email@example.com.
Spread the word - attend a hike - DONATE! Over 97% of IW proceeds go to the actual mission. Not to brag- but that's pretty much unheard of in the nonprofit world. Just sayin'.
One Shared Missiona
VET 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 firstname.lastname@example.org so we can accredit it.