SAVANNAH, Ga. – According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, 22 veterans commit suicide each day.
For Stefanie Parker, the striking number of 22 isn’t just a statistic but a reality she’s seen in her own life, starting with her father who served in the military and committed suicide.
“We know what the wounds of war can do and I know what the wounds of war can do the to living,” she said.
Parker is an Army veteran herself and she, along with her mom, decided she wanted to be part of ending that reality for so many of America’s brave men and women.
They along are a part of Irreverent Warriors which provides unconventional therapy to veterans all around the country. Part of the therapy is a ‘Silkies Hike’ which is a military only hike where men and women strip down to their underwear and combat boots to hike in order to stand up in solitary against veteran suicide.
On Saturday, more than 100 people from all over the country who had been deployed took part in the hike on Tybee Island. They marched 22 kilometers while carrying 22 kilograms on their backs. That added up to walking more than 13 miles, or around three times around the island.
“This is a chance for people to get together, share some drinks, and some shared suffering which is always nice in the military,” Marine Corps Reserve Veteran Lee Harris said.
“Every single hike that I have gone to, there have been at least one guy that said, ‘I had the gun in my mouth but I wanted to wait until the hike was over. And at the end of the day, I didn’t pull the trigger.’ Because they knew we had their back,” Parker said.
Irreverent Warriors plans on coming back to Tybee for another ‘Silkies Hike’ in 2017 and in the meantime plans on creating monthly events for veterans to connect with each other in order to provide accountability and encouragement.
Parker encouraged anyone from the military who is going through a hard time to reach out to her at any time of the day and night.
Stefanie Parker: 912-398-8777