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Lancaster's John Percey completes 31 Miles for 31 Heroes

by Tara Giles
Sports reporter - Coos County Democrat and Berlin Reporter
August 13, 2020
LANCASTER — 31 Miles for 31 Heroes is a 31 mile ruck through the night to honor the lives of the Heroes of Extortion 17. During the summer of 2011, America lost 30 military service members when a CH-47 helicopter was downed in Afghanistan. Lancaster resident and Air Force Veteran, John Percey completed his ninth year, raising close to $1,600, a solid amount given the circumstances with Covid-19.

Since the tragedy occurred, a fundraising WOD (workout of the day) was hosted at over 400 gyms nationwide, raising $300,000 to support the families affected. This inspired organizers to do more, to help more families.

As described in their non-profit mission statement, "We assist athletes and event organizers around the country with tools and resources to continue the legacy of selflessness and camaraderie of Aug. 6, 2011. Through strategic alliances with other organizations we can ensure that all proceeds directly fund programs that support service members and their families, including the Navy SEAL community."

Since 2011, more than $1.5 million has been given back to the nation's heroes. Four years later, 31 Heroes began working to support those affected by PTSD and traumatic brain injuries.

On Aug. 8, Percey and a group began the 31 mile walk at Schillings in Littleton. The route was mapped out by Littleton Fire Captain Chad Miller.

"I chose the flattest of the options he gave me," joked Percey.

The route turned from Littleton onto Wing Road, then onto River Road and ended at the State Police Barracks in Twin Mountain.

Joining Percey for the first six miles, were four members of the VFW post 816 from Littleton. Percey's sister and wife did the first nine miles. Lancaster Selectman and veteran Leon Rideout walked the last 11 miles along side Percey.

"This was the first year I had someone walk the entire 31 miles with me," said Percey.

Culinary Arts instructor at St. Johnsbury Academy, Paula Bystrzycki was with Percey from start to finish.

"Paula came out two years ago and walked the first 12 miles, this year she completed the entire thing. Her son was medically retired from the Air Force and suffers from PTSD, so this event was close to her and she carried the flag for a large portion of the walk," said Percey.

"A big thank you to the Littleton VFW, for whom this would not have drawn as many participants. They offered their van as a shuttle so more people could walk in sections," said Percey with appreciation.

Donations are still being accepted and can be done so by visiting www.classy.org/fundraiser/2779596.

Varney Smith
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