Florida Veteran Honors Friends Lost in Iraq with 17-Mile Run on His ‘Alive Day’

by Keeli Parkey

A Florida veteran is doing what he can to make sure that the friends he lost in Iraq are never forgotten. He is also hoping that his efforts raise funds for an organization whose mission it is to help veterans.

This veteran is Andrew Coughlan, according to Action News Jax. He served in Iraq and during that service 17 years ago two of his dear friends died while serving the United States of America.

“Today marks 17 years since two of my friends were killed in Iraq,” Coughlan shared. “And, I’m running 17 miles over the next 17 hours. So, one mile every hour.”

In addition to remembering his lost friends, Coughlan also runs to recognize his “alive day.”

This is the day that the veteran almost died while he was serving as an infantryman in the United States Army in Iraq.

To make sure you can run 17 hours out of the 24 hours in a day, you have to get up early. Veteran Coughlan and his wife were up even before the sun came up. However, the veteran started early for another reason.

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

Veteran Andrew Coughlan Runs in Memory of Two Friends

This veteran runs in memory of Sergeant Dale Lloyd and Private First Class Charles Persing.

According to The Florida Times-Union, the mortar attack that claimed the lives of Lloyd and Persing took place on July 19, 2004. Coughlan was only 20 years old at the time.

“So, Sgt. Lloyd was my team leader,” Coughlan also said. “He was killed in Iraq, along with Charles Persing. Charles actually saved my life in Iraq by shielding me from a blast.”

Unsurprisingly, what happened to this veteran is something he will never forget.

“Those things, I mean, they stick with me every day,” the veteran also shared.

In addition to his “alive day” run, Coughlan remembers his lost friends by wearing bracelets bearing their names.

“These never come off,” the veteran said. “I have worn them every single day for 17 years.”

Running to remember his lost friends made sense to Andrew Coughlan because that exercise was something that helped him cope after he ended his service in the United States Army.

The veteran also wants his memorial run as a way to raise funds for the Wounded Warrior Project. According to its website, this organization helps support veterans in their lives after their service ends. It is an organization that helped Coughlan in his life.

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