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The City Journals

Irreverent Warriors Utah hike brings awareness to veteran mental health

Jul 12, 2021 02:45PM ● By Lindsey Baxter

Group walking in Salt Lake. (Photo courtesy Jarvie Curtis

By Lindsey Baxter | [email protected]

Irreverent Warriors has a mission and vision to bring veterans together using humor and camaraderie to improve mental health and prevent veteran suicide. Every day in the United States, 22 veterans succumb to suicide.

The organization recently brought that mission to Utah where IW hiked for the first of possibly many hikes in the state. 

“Silkies are the short shorts that the Marine Corps wear,” Curtis explained. “They are super short and pretty ridiculous looking. Our agenda is to walk 22 kilometers with 22 pounds on our back to stop 22 veteran suicides that happen each day.”

Curtis is passionate about this cause and has officially been part of Utah’s division for over a year developing close bonds with veterans across the county. In a time when isolation and quarantine has made life harder, the organization wants veterans to have a healthy support system, across the nation.

Curtis said his motivation initially came from seeing friends post pictures and videos from past Irreverent Warrior events. 

He enjoyed the hike trekking back and forth through the hiking group.  

“I heard music from almost every genre, and just as many people singing and dancing to it,” he said. “Meeting the new hikers, singing along and dancing too helped to make such a fun event.”

Joseph Bento served in the Navy from 1983-1993. He heard about the hike from former service member and local coordinator for Salt Lake. Bento was motivated to be involved with this hike because the camaraderie of being with like-minded people that served in the military. 

“I missed the interaction for so many years,” Bento said.  

 “During the last stretch of the hike, several people that were carrying the flag of their service branch started running to the rear of the group and circling around back to the front to provide encouragement,” Bento said. “I don't think there were any participants that did not complete the hike. We gathered at a local pub afterwards for good food, drink, and conversation.” 

Bento shares Curtis’ concerns and wants the community to understand the problems veterans face. 

 “Veteran suicide is a big problem in our country that goes largely unnoticed,” Bento said.  

Amy Fritz is a proud mom of an Air Force Veteran and a currently serving Airman. She is the president of Blue Star Mothers of America's Utah Chapter, which was contacted to volunteer on the day of the hike. 

“Star Mothers is a volunteer-oriented group,” Fitz said. “We all have children serving and know moms who have lost their child to suicide, so the Irreverent Warriors mission is something important to us as well.”  

Curtis said he had a great experience with the hike in Utah.

“As the hike lead, I didn't get to relax until I knew that the mission was a success,” he said. “The most impactful memory for me was after the hike. We were sitting at Big Willie's and one of the hikers approached me and said, ‘thank you so much for making this day happen. I have been in a bad place for a while and didn't know if I could push on. I knew that I needed to be with my IW people, so I bought a plane ticket two days before the hike. You saved a life this weekend, my life.’ I broke down knowing that the hard work, dedication, and planning had hit the mark.”

To help donate or volunteer, contact Jarvie Curtis at [email protected]