Face of Defense: Marine Honors Fallen, Injured Troops
By Marine Corps Pfc. Franklin E. Mercado
2nd Marine Logistics Group
CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C., Oct. 27, 2011 Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. James J. Dacey is running 345 miles to honor and to raise public awareness for the nation’s fallen and wounded warriors.
Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. James J. Dacey speaks with fellow Marines at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Oct. 22, 2011, before starting his 345-mile run to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. The North Arlington, N.J., native is conducting the run to raise public awareness about the nation’s fallen and wounded warriors. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Franklin E. Mercado
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Dacey -- a 12-year Marine veteran who serves here with Support Company, 8th Engineer Support Battalion -- left Camp Lejeune Oct. 22 and is running to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
“The reason for this event is to assist men and women who have sacrificed so much for our great country,” Dacey wrote on his website. “The physical and psychological wounds incurred by these warriors are nothing short of heroic. It is with honor for my brothers- and sisters-in-arms [that] I embark on this endeavor to ease their burden, if only for a brief moment.”
Dacey said he plans to complete his journey to Maryland on Veterans Day, Nov. 11. He added that he hopes to raise $100,000 for injured service members through donations to the nonprofit Wounded Warrior Project.
The Marine’s mother, Debbie Melamed, who’s also the safety driver for the run, said she had no doubt her son would take on the challenge.
“I’m very proud of my son,” Melamed said. “I’m not surprised he’s doing it. He has never second-guessed himself, either. Once he said he was going to do it, that was it. He’s always been a determined person ever since I can remember.”
Melamed was given three weeks of leave from her job at a law firm in Hackensack, N.J., to help her son along his run.
“I was amazed he asked me to be the one to help him,” she said. “This is a huge responsibility, and I’m very proud of him for what he’s doing in honor of his fellow troops.”
As her son runs his course, Melamed drives ahead and checks the route for him. She pauses at the halfway point each day to ensure all is well. If Dacey isn’t at the halfway point within a certain amount of time, his mother said, she’ll backtrack and check on him.
“We’ve taken the right steps to make sure we are ready for the run,” Dacey said. “Safety was a big concern.”
With his mother ready to go and on her way to the halfway point for the day, Dacey left Camp Lejeune and bid farewell to the people who came to see him off.
“Thank you to everyone who came to watch me begin,” he said. “Thank you for all the support.”
As Dacey ran down the road, well-wishers sent him off with a motivational “Oorah!”