Stating the obvious, 2020 has been an odd year. This was going to be the year that I got my shit together and take on the world. Yea, it feels a little cliche thinking about it now. The year was not a total garbage fire. As one of the steps towards making this year mine, February 29, 2020 was a date that changed everything for me. I'm not entirely sure when this article will finally be published, but when it is, I know that I will have had some time to really reflect on it.
I am 6' 3" and 300 pounds, so to say that a hike was in my future did not seem like a possibility, at all! For about 5 years now, I have had friends trying to convince me to attend something called a silkies hike. They would tell me how great these hikes were, and how great the Irreverent Warrior community is when it comes to helping veterans. I am sure you can put two and two together to realize that it is true, but I do not think anyone knows how true it is.
My size was a constant worry to me. I assumed it was going to be a bunch of fresh veterans straight out of active duty and they would run laps around me, it was going to be a non-stop competition to see who the better hiker was, and I would eventually have to drop out because of, you know, the whole weight issue. There was never a person that was left behind. For all of our wheelchair veterans, we would pick them up, or find a different avenue of approach, or even call up a safety vehicle to get them to the next stop to rest. There are numerous stops during the hikes that all you to rest and catch up with some of the people you have met.
Before the first mile is ever finished, every worry that I possibly had was out of my head and left somewhere along the river to do whatever it decided it would do. I have been out of the Marine Corps for 10 years, but I somehow found a person that was in the same unit I was with out in Okinawa. Waco, Tx is a, somewhat, small town, so I did not expect to meet anyone in this town that I did not know. With all that being said, I did meet someone from my old unit, and for privacy reasons, I will keep his name out of this article. He was not the only one I met. I began meeting all of these people that had been prominent in the veteran community, but I had just never ran across them. The networking ball began to start rolling from there, and it is not stopping.
I know this is going to sound a little ignorant, but I did not think about attending any hikes outside of my little city. See, Irreverent Warriors hosts over 60 hikes across the nation, on a regular year, and Texas usually has quite a few (I have a Texas accent and this isn't a graded paper... I think). It was very easy to make the decision to go to another hike (which would be in Houston, Texas). I watched the typical ball-slap game, the ass grab/slap, and irreverent comedy that one is used to in the military (all good things that we love about the military); but, I also watched friendships form, networking form to the point where people were getting employment opportunities, and veterans coming out of their homes that tend to stay isolated within themselves.
I watched veterans come together in a way that was so reminiscent of the military that it makes you forget all of the real world problems for a day. The only way I can describe it is that it there is a little piece of you that is always missing no matter what you do to feel complete again after the military; these hikes are that missing piece.
I want to finish this article off with this:
These hikes may or may not be for you. I, personally, love them and plan on attending many more, but we are not all built the same. I have met plenty of great people along the way, I have had a better quality of life, and the hikes encourage me to keep going to the gym (whether its frequently or not). A lot of you are reluctnat on trying anything new, but trying new things is how veterans cope with post-military life.