Veterans charge down Main Street to raise awareness of suicides

MARSHALL — Wearing a 50-pound backpack, military veteran John Chisham wasn’t going to let Saturday’s blizzard stop him from completing his mission.

“We have some hard chargers,” Chisham said of his group of nine veterans marching down Main Street with the U.S. flag in tow. The march started at Southwest Minnesota State University. He spoke during a short break just off Main Street in the downtown area. “We are raising awareness to veteran suicides.”

Despite the intense blizzard conditions, members of the Irreverent Warriors held their second annual Silkies Hike as planned.

While much of downtown Marshall was quiet, the veterans did have company. A TV station crew from KSFY in Sioux Falls were filing reports from Main Street and snow plows raced up and down the street as well. The veterans took breaks inside the couple bars that were open for business despite the blizzard conditions.

“The main purpose of the Irreverent Warriors is to bring all these veterans together,” Chisham said. “We have active guys, we have reserve guys. We have active duty guys. We have veterans from all over the place.”

He said they were supposed to be more than 50 veterans in the march, but the weather did keep a lot of them away. They planned to march 22 kilometers to represent the 22 veterans who commit suicide daily.

“We need each other when that one night you might bring that gun to your head,” Chisham said. “Maybe you get that text from someone you met from one of these things. It says ‘hey man, what’s up. How’s it going.’ Maybe that just the one thing that keeps you alive.”