WESTFIELD, NJ — Navy vet and Westfield dad Marc Herzog was one of hundreds to march in the Silkies Hike NYC this weekend with Irreverent Warriors, a non-profit that uses humor and camaraderie to prevent veteran suicide.
Wearing Silkies (military-style PT shorts made famous by the United States Marines), Herzog and about 380 others hiked 13 miles, many carrying about 50 pounds of weight on their backs. The hike also united veterans with more than 50 veterans services offered throughout the tri-state area.
“This wasn't about raising awareness or funds,” Herzog said. “Sure, we did both of those things, but this was about making sure that everyone who attended had this community who would support him or her, and take suicide off the table when things get hard.”
This was the second Silkies Hike for Herzog.
“I was asked to participate in a march in Philadelphia, and it was a very emotional experience for me,” Herzog said. “The VA has let us down, and the Irreverent Warriors — the non-profit that coordinates these marches — started doing this as a way of creating a support network for us. As veterans, it can be very easy to forget that we are not alone. There are others who are coping with the same experiences. Since the government is not doing enough for us, we need to be there for each other. The brotherhoods and sisterhoods that were created in training and experiences do not evaporate the moment our service ends. We share a bond for life.”
The group stepped off at Central Park around 9:30 a.m., hiked down to Ground Zero (with police escort), ate lunch in Rockefeller Park then hiked up the West Side Drive and ended in Times Square.
Most of the participants of the march were Marines, Herzog noted.
“I was in the ‘Gator Navy,’ the amphibious Navy, and my ship was tasked with ensuring that troops arrived on a beach, were supported while on mission, and then bringing them home safely. I still take that mission seriously, and I will continue to make sure every one of these Irreverent Warriors gets home safely,” Herzog said. “Suicide is not an option while I stand my watch.”
More than 22 veterans commit suicide each day, according to Irreverent Warriors. September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.