Hundreds of veterans hike in silkies to heal with humor and reduce veteran suicide

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SAN DIEGO -  It started in San Diego two years ago with about 70 veterans stripping down to their short shorts and hiking 10 miles…

Today, over 500 vets showed up in silkies and now it’s turned into a veteran’s movement of humor and camaraderie that is helping to save those who’ve served.

Wearing nothing more than silkies made famous by the U.S. Marine Corps participants hiked roughly 10 miles while carrying heavy backpacks some weighing close to 50 lbs.

“You know when I got out of the military I didn’t have a network,” said Retired Marine Chris White.

Former Marine Chris White has been to 18 of these silkies hikes. He says there’s often a feeling of not fitting in after leaving the military, a loss of purpose and understanding that many veterans feel.

“More times than I can possibly remember where I’ve asked someone what does this mean to you? And literally they mean it saved their life. They could’ve easily been a statistic that day, the following week and it just came at the right time at the right place for them to feel not so isolated because there’s people just like them everywhere,” said White.

The inaugural Silkies Hike was held in July of 2015 here in San Diego with about 70 people. Today, in Mission Bay they had over 500.

“The mentality of using humor to deal with unfortunate situations, we all share it, because we can all relate in the military just from boot camp,” said Retired Marine Captain Donny O'Malley.

Founder of the Irreverent Warriors, retired Marine Captain Donny O'Malley survived war, only to lose fellow veterans here at home. He says the camaraderie and humor of these hikes help to heal the emotional wounds of war.

“It could be a marine infantry man, and a navy sailor or an army water dog and they will show up to this thing and they’re both at the same place in their life being a veteran and looking for work, or being recently divorced, or dealing with some issue, and they come together and connect. And this bringing veterans together in large quantities facilitates these connections, the connections are what ultimately save lives,” said O’Malley. “We don’t provide job assistance or money or any of that. We just bring them together and we have other non-profits show up and provide other types of services. We’re just here to bring them together and we do it better than anyone else has done it in the country.”

It’s become quite a movement since 2015, over 12,000 veterans nationwide have come together to hike in their silkies for a purpose.

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