Marines and veterans are trekking more than 13 miles along a California boardwalk to raise awareness about suicide prevention — and they'll be wearing very little in the process.
Medically retired Marine Capt. Danny Maher — who more commonly goes by his stage name
Capt. Donny O’Malley — is combining some of the things Marines love most in his effort to bring awareness to a serious issue: humor and very short shorts known as silkies.
The former infantry officer-turned-comedian is leading participants on a 22-kilometer road march on Saturday while they each carry 22 kilograms — nearly 50 pounds — of gear. The number of kilometers they'll walk and the weight that they'll carry represents the 22 service members who die from suicide each day.
Maher and other participants will walk in little more than silkies and boots while carrying their packs. They'll start at South Mission Beach Jetty in San Diego and will head about 13 and a half miles north to La Jolla Cove.
“Imagine a pub crawl with all your Marine buddies wearing nothing but silkies and rucks on the most crowded and beautiful boardwalk in California. That’s what’s going on here,” the event’s Facebook page says.
The road march, which departs at about 11 a.m., is organized by a group Maher helped to found called Irreverent Warriors. They're teaming with VETality Corp., another veteran support organization, in their mission to raise awareness about post-traumatic stress and suicide prevention.
Above all, Maher seeks to extend the camaraderie veterans enjoyed while deployed or in garrison beyond their years in uniform. That, he says, goes a long way to keep those who are struggling from feeling so isolated and misunderstood after returning to civilian life that they self-destruct.
Already, attendees include service members from at least five Marine regiments, several school houses, Seal Team 9, explosive ordnance disposal technicians, Coast Guard personnel, Marine Corps Special Operations Command raiders and more, according to the Facebook page.
Maher also recently authored "Embarrassing Confessions of a Marine Lieutenant," which is the first in a planned series of military-themed comedy books he hopes will give veterans a good laugh while also promoting suicide-prevention efforts. Each chapter concludes will a call-to-action that helps maintain the bond forged during their years of service.
For the whole story on Maher journey from grunt to comedian, check back next week with Marine Corps Times.