NMCPHC Sailor Leads Warrior Hike in Virginia Beach

17 September 2021

From Courtesy Story

In the early hours of September 17th, Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Mari Williams stood at a registration table in a parking lot across from the Virginia Beach Aquarium, greeting active duty service members and veterans participating in a day-long hike up and down the ocean front. The group she’s representing is Irreverent Warriors (IW), a
In the early hours of September 17th, Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Mari Williams stood at a registration table in a parking lot across from the Virginia Beach Aquarium, greeting active duty service members and veterans participating in a day-long hike up and down the ocean front. The group she’s representing is Irreverent Warriors (IW), a nation-wide organization with a mission and vision: Bringing veterans together using humor and camaraderie to improve mental health and prevent veteran suicide.

Williams is assigned to the Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center (NMCPHC) in Portsmouth, Va., and by the end of the day she will have led a hike for 160 veterans and service members over 7.6 miles. Along the way they were met with applause and salutes from beach-goers and others who were visiting the ocean front area.

“It’s such a rewarding experience for me to come together with these folks and be seen in the community,” she says, “each time we get together we laugh, talk and build or strengthen our bonds.”

This particular event also took place during the month of Suicide Awareness and Prevention, and it did not surprise Chief Hospital Corpsman Delita Shields, Williams’s direct supervisor at NMCPHC, that she led the IW efforts that day.

“I have always observed her to be an outgoing Sailor who invests her personal time for helping others and being a part of something bigger,” says Shields, “and I know that even when she’s leaves the Navy she’ll continue giving her energy to things that affect people who were in our community.” Shields also said that Williams represents the Navy and the Public Health Center with integrity and professionalism to the local community.

Throughout day, hikers handed out small business cards with information about Irreverent Warriors and their mission to folks passing by. The engagement also allowed for impromptu conversations with people who may not have been as aware of the unfortunate facts affecting service members and veterans prior to the event.

“Our mission is that the heart of everything we do as IW, and the events created, pick up where clinical connections don’t reach, and build support where it’s okay not to be okay,” says Williams. “When we come together sharing humor and camaraderie, we regain a sense of worthiness and belonging which is critical for many.”

At the mid-point of the hike, participants stopped at a location where there was public exercise equipment available. They began challenging each other in rope climbing, pull-ups and completed the break with 22 push-ups as a group, representing the average of those lost each day to suicide.

The group returned to the starting point in the early evening where they concluded the day by welcoming newcomers experiencing the Irreverent Warrior hike for the first time, and putting out information for the next event.

“So long as we have veterans and service members who are suffering, we’ll continue to march forward as a group and be there for each other,” says Williams, “because sometimes that’s our biggest strength, each other.”

The Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center (NMCPHC) develops and shapes public health for the U.S. Navy and Marines Corps through health surveillance, epidemiology and analysis, disease and injury prevention, and public health consultation. Learn more by going to www.nmcphc.med.navy.mil. Follow NMCPHC on social media at https://www.facebook.com/NavyAndMarineCorpsPublicHealthCenter http://twitter.com/nmcphc and https://www.instagram.com/nmcphc/
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