By Stephanie Reyes, Reporter
Local veterans and active military will have the opportunity to bring awareness to service member suicide while participating in a ruck march called Silkies Hike for the 22 this Saturday in Waco.
The concept behind the march, 22 with 22 for the 22, refers to the number of suicides that are committed each day by individuals in the military. In addition, Saturday’s event will consists of a 22 km or 13.6-mile ruck march, a pub-crawl and participants carrying backpacks that weigh 22 kg or 48.5 pounds.
Retired Marine Corps Captain, and Irreverent Warrior, Donny O’Malley started the ruck march. Irreverent Warriors is an organization that brings together veterans using humor and camaraderie, through therapeutic events and entertainment, to reduce post-traumatic stress disorder according to their Facebook page.
The mission of Saturday’s march is to help veterans deal with the demons created from combat using the same sense of humor and camaraderie that was used in combat, in hopes to reduce veteran suicide and PTSD.
Sabattus, Maine sophomore, and Army veteran Sara Lacroix is a Waco ruck march coordinator. She said the goal of the ruck march is to bring awareness to the 22 veteran suicides that happen each day.
“Veterans are so overlooked,” Lacroix said.
Every day 22 veterans and one active duty soldier commit suicide. Burdened with the stigma associated with mental health issues and the military shame surrounding post traumatic stress, they instead turn to suicide as their only option to relieve suffering, according to the stop soldier suicide website.
Lacroix said coordinating and participating in this ruck march is personally important to her because she knows veterans who have committed suicide.
“Just to be able to put this together, bring people here and hope that we [can] pull one person out of their slump,” Lacroix said. “If we can help just one person. If we can bring that number from 22 to 21, we’re making progress.”
Lacroix said there are approximately 350 people from all five branches coming on Saturday to participate in the march. She added that she hopes civilians will attend as well to cheer on the men and women as they march by.
“We’re hoping for a great turn out because the more people that come the more awareness is made, the more prevention there is,” Lacrioix said. “We’re just hoping to combat veteran suicide, cut that number down.”
She said members of the Baylor community can help veterans by being aware of the veteran suicide rate and just simply recognizing them on Veterans Day and giving a simple thank you to a veteran.
“I haven’t done anything crazy in my time in service. But people like my brother who deployed with 80 and only came back with 60 of his brothers and sisters. When you thank me, I am thinking of him,” Lacroix said. Just simply recognize them goes so far,” Lacroix said.
Trenton Ortner, co-coordinator of the ruck march and United States Marine Corps veteran, said community members should come to the ruck march to bring awareness to the topic of veteran suicide.
“The death toll for suicides in the veteran community is 128,000 in the last 14 years and that’s a number that’s not thrown around very often,” Ortner said. “That’s just confirmed suicide deaths not including overdoses or any kind of behavior that happens.”
Ortner said he decided to get involved in the ruck march because he had some personal issues with PTSD and he has had more friends die after coming home than in combat.
“It seems to be a ongoing thing, like every three or four months I get a call [saying] ‘hey so and so killed themselves,’” Ortner said. “Suicide is a horrible thing and when you experience it on a personal level over and over again it’s gut-wrenching to the point where it makes it hard for you to sit around and just accept it and let it happen.”
Ortner said his hope for Saturday’s march is to build awareness and get people talking about the veteran suicide problem that is currently happening.
“Even if you don’t participate in the hike and you recognize what’s going on and you make a phone call to one of your friends that you haven’t talked to in a year or two, that phone call could save that person’s life,” Ortner said. “It could make a huge difference.”
If you want more information on the Saturday’s ruck march you can find it on Facebook under ‘Silkies Hike for the 22-Waco.’