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Guardsman plans to run from Memphis to Atlanta on behalf of disabled veterans

By Thomas Sellers Jr.

John Townsley

John Townsley

Tennessee Army National Guardsman John Townsley is no Tom Hanks.
But like the famed actor, he wanted to draw attention to himself by using his gift. Townsley’s gift might bring to mind a character Hanks brought to life in 1994, Forrest Gump.
“I’ve always had a God-given gift of running,” Townsley said. “I might describe it like Forrest Gump. I was a good runner in high school and competed at the state level. I even ran on my Army track team.”
On May 11, Townsley plans to put that gift to the test running from Memphis to Atlanta to bring awareness for disable veterans after the passing of the Cost of Living Allowance that cut some of their financial benefits. The 384-mile journey will start in Downtown Memphis and is scheduled to conclude Memorial Day in Atlanta.
“The reason I am doing this run is because these men and women who faithfully served their country with honor and dignity,” he said, “are being treated disgracefully. These veterans have lost their limbs, eyesight and some cases mental faculties.
“The Wounded Warrior Project is an organization that has helped many of these veterans overcome some of these problems with their programs,” Townsley added. “I have friends of mine that I served with in Iraq that have used their services, and it helped them immensely.”
The Wounded Warrior Project relies on donations and Townsley is hoping the buildup to his run and the Proud Supporter Event will bring in a significant amount of money for disable veterans.
On May 4 Townsley will turned 47 years old. With his regular training and leading fitness classes in the National Guard, the 1985 graduate of West High (Knoxville) said he is ready for the challenge of 384 miles.
Townsley said he was raised in a patriotic home by his parents Susan and Robert. But that passion for the United States grew stronger on Sept. 11, 2001 with the attacks on New York and Washington D.C. Townsley was just a few blocks away in New York watching the World Trade Centers crumble down to the ground.
He originally enlisted in the Army in 1985 and in 2002 he joined the National Guard.
“The attacks made me more aware of what was going on in our country,” he said. “Joining the National Guard showed me I needed to get back into shape.”
Townsley runs about 20 miles a day. He has completed about 160 official marathons. As part of his training for the awareness run to Georgia, he has slowly increased his miles to build up his muscle memory.
As for his diet, Townsley has cut back on sugars and will feature a steady intake of protein bars. The Richmond, Ind., native said once he starts his run, he will only go 26 miles a day. So if things go as planned, day one will conclude in Olive Branch, Miss.
Less than a month away from his start date, Townsley is still looking for sponsorships and donations. He noted all donations are tax deductible and all paperwork for tax purposes will be mailed out from WWP about six days after the run is completed. For more information, visit or volunteer sir.
To sponsor or make a donation, Townsley can be reached at

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April 2014
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