St. Johns County

Veteran running 17 hours to commemorate his Alive Day, honor friends and fellow soldiers

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — Hundreds of thousands of men and women proudly serve in the U.S. Armed Forces to protect the freedoms we cherish.

Some, making the ultimate sacrifice, have lost their lives in combat.

Action News Jax’s Courtney Cole introduces us to a veteran and his unique way of commemorating the day that changed his life forever, 17 years ago.

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“Today marks 17 years since two of my friends were killed in Iraq. And I’m running 17 miles over the next 17 hours,” said Andrew Coughlan.

This is Coughlan’s special way to honor and remember his friends on his Alive Day — the anniversary of the date he almost lost his life while serving in Iraq. He served in the U.S. Army as an infantryman.

Coughlan and his wife began running before dawn.

“And the reason I started at 4:30 in the morning, it’s about 11:30 in Iraq, and that’s when the attack happened when they were both killed,” Coughlan explained.

Coughlan is running in memory of Sgt. Dale Lloyd, PFC Charles Persing, and the rest of 1-32 Infantry, 10th Mountain Division Soldiers.

“Sgt. Lloyd was my team leader. He was killed in Iraq, along with Charles Persing. Charles actually saved my life in Iraq, by shielding me from a blast. Those things, they stick with me every day. Knowing the last decision Charles ever made of his life was to save mine is something that I constantly think about, not only today, but every day,” Coughlan told Action News Jax’s Courtney Cole.

He keeps them close to his heart by wearing memorial bracelets.

“So these bracelets, I wear memorial bracelets, in honor of Sgt. Lloyd and Persing. And I also have another one for a friend who was killed in Afghanistan. These never come off. I’ve worn them every single day for 17 years,” Coughlan said.

Coughlan said he chose to run to honor their memory because running has been therapeutic during his transition from the military.

The veteran is also hoping to use this run as a way to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project, a program that made such a positive impact in his life.

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“Those are the same programs that saved my life when I was struggling. You know I’ve been given a second, third, fourth opportunity at life and I can’t waste it,” Coughlan said.

If you would like to support Coughlan and the Wounded Warrior Project, you can donate HERE.