On April 17th, over 450 Veterans gathered in Oceanside, California 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 was in Oceanside, CA – so, ya know, it was pretty much beach scenery the whole way. But who hates that? It was a fine So Cal day, and the beach views were on point. The hike started at the San Luis Rey River, wound through downtown Oceanside for a spell, and then ended on the beach.
One of the best parts of this hike was the outpouring of local support from bystanders and observers. Once local crowds picked up on what the purpose of the hike was, the cheers and encouragement were incredible. Some local folks even grabbed water and Gatorade to hand out to hikers in an impromptu gesture of support. It really brings a whole different spirit to the hike when you can watch camaraderie spread that instantly.
The games on the beach were a huge hit (shocking with a bunch of Vets, right?), but the jousting set was the heavy favorite.
We also had certified Donny O'Malley sighting at this hike. We lucked out, huh?!
"My first hike was in 2017. I went alone - I was on an internal journey. I had no expectations. I came out of that hike with friendships that changed the course of my life. To be united with one another from different journeys, all looking for the same feeling. IW fills up love cups. Smiles and hugs from those seemingly strangers, bonded with unique stories. One huge or smile and the vibe is felt instantly. We thank you, Irreverent Warriors."
-Nurse Robyn, United States Army
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 some of the moments during the jousting sessions were particularly priceless. You know it’s a great group when guys can face plant shamelessly and get up laughing harder than anyone around them. Vets, man.
To sum up the hike, we'll revert to Oceanside lead coordinator, Daniel Perez:
“Whether it's depression, anxiety, insomnia, paranoia - or whatever else may be affecting us from our time in service - the hikes illustrate that in these afflictions we have a baseline commonality. Yes, our experiences that affect our mental health differ wildly. But none of us are alone. We fought as a family – and now we recover as one.”
-Daniel Perez, United States Army
Massive thanks go out to a few sponsors and individuals that helped make this hike a success.
VET Tv (Veteran Television) - our 2021 National Presenting Sponsor! They had a booth setup at sign-up giving away stickers, merch, and free months of VET Tv! (thanks for that free pair of Silkies to give away at the hike, too!)
Thrash-n-Raid – for their donation to our raffle that helped raise an extra $800 in funds!
Cannae Pro Gear - for their donation to our raffle that contributed to the huge boost of an additional $800 raised.
Private Donors – We had a few generous individuals for this hike (who want to remain anonymous) that gave substantial monetary donations to the hike this year to make it a success. Though we’ll honor their wishes and not mention them by name, you all know who you are, and your support is appreciated more than you know!
Who Made it Possible
Daniel Perez (Army, Infantry, E-4) - Lead Coordinator
Nick Frantz (Navy, Diver, E-5) - Assistant Lead Coordinator
Sarah Frantz (Civilian, GOAT, Mental Health Services)- Volunteer Coordinator
Rebecca Lee (Air Force) - Coordinator and Volunteer
JOIN THE DEBAUCHERY
Big things are happening for this hike next year! IW coordinators are working with the City of San Diego to move this hike to downtown San Diego, with anticipation of over 500 hikers attending. We’re hoping to add live music, merch vendors, multiple food vendors, and (maybe) even an inflatable slide. Who knows – this could get wild.
If you want to get involved, reach out via the Oceanside Facebook page, or to lead coordinator Daniel Perez directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.