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'Irreverent Warriors' hold hiking event in Salt Lake City to end veteran suicide

Posted at 9:33 PM, May 20, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — A group of more than 50 veterans hiked eight miles through Salt Lake City Saturday afternoon on a mission dedicated to an all-too-common problem.

“We can’t turn a blind eye to it,” said Jarvie Curtis, a Marine Corps veteran and an organizer of the hike. “We just have to recognize it, and we carry those that have passed.”

Curtis said the mission of the Irreverent Warriors Silkies Hike is to eliminate veteran suicide.

“You can see it on any headline and you can read in the newspaper day after day of veterans taking their own lives,” said Curtis. “We've decided not to raise awareness. We're setting out to stop it.”

It’s unfortunately a reality many know all too well.

“Everybody here has experienced some sort of form of suicide, whether it's they know somebody, a family member — it's all impacted us in some way differently than all other veterans, all of us together,” said Irreverent Warriors coordinator and Air Force veteran Michael Bower.

Bower said the tradition is a chance to bring veterans together through humor and camaraderie.

“Maybe some of these veterans will pick up some skills that people have talking to each other and exchange names and really just help be there for each other,” said Bower.

Bower said the hike is a chance for veterans who have the unique experience of serving in the military to connect with one another.

“The one thing that veterans miss the most when they separate from active duty is that family bond, that brotherhood that they have while you're in the field or you're deployed or whatever you're doing,” said Bower, “It's that surrogate family that you kind of latch to.”

Serving in the military is a sacrifice that can be hard to understand for anyone who has not served, which can make it difficult to reintegrate back into society when they return home.

“We are giving them that opportunity to open up to share those hard stories, to share their feelings without feeling like they're being judged, without feeling like they are going to be looked at differently,” said Curtis.