Hundreds march to raise awareness about veteran suicide

Every day, 22 veterans take their own lives. That number is according to a report from the Department of Veteran Affairs. This may seem like a high number, but the number could be higher than reported.

Saturday, hundreds of veterans came together at Lady Bird Lake, wearing little more than underwear to bring a touch of humor to a serious problem.

Donny O'Malley is a former marine who lost a friend to suicide.

“When I was done crying, I decided there was something I needed to do to give meaning to his death,” O’Malley said.

He formed the organization, Irreverent Warriors. Irreverent means lacking seriousness for something that otherwise is considered serious. O'Malley says it's a way to cope in the armed forces.

“If somebody dies, or blows their legs off, it sucks for a while but the jokes start up very soon after, because the other option is to cry all the time,” O’Malley said.

Saturday, he gathered hundreds of combat and non-combat veterans to march in little more than their silkies. It's a gesture in honor of the 22 who kill themselves daily,

“Everybody keeps it politically correct and very soft and gentle and they post all these sad pictures of people killing themselves. I look at this stuff and I'm like that doesn't make me any less likely to kill myself it makes me more sad than I was before,” O’Malley said.

They marched down Riverside Drive, staying behind for their fellow marines and soldiers. They displayed the meaning of “Semper Fidelis.”

“It's just a saying that came around and it's just "always faithful, we're always going to be there for each other," Mathew Frederick, a marine, said.

O'Malley believes if his friend Artem Lazukin were alive, he would approve of the fun these vets are having.

“He loved my humor. When I was in combat, we used humor to get through everything,” O’Malley said.

Sometimes all it takes is an unconventional method, to bring a serious problem to the forefront.

Organizers say hikes are spreading around the country and are going on in more than 50 cities. If you or someone you know is considering suicide, call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255.
 

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