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Patriot Run in memory of fallen Navy SEAL; participants sought

Patriot Run in memory of fallen Navy SEAL; participants sought
Patriot Run in memory of fallen Navy SEAL; participants sought | Patriot Run in memory of fallen Navy SEAL; participants sought

Navy SEAL Aaron Vaughn
Staff Reporter
It’s a good reason to run.
The West Tennessee Patriot Run — in memory of fallen Navy SEAL Aaron Vaughn — will kick off in Kenton next month as a fund raiser for the Wounded Warrior Project.
The Oct. 15 event will feature guest runner P.J. Kellogg, a retired U.S. Marine who will be running 35 miles from Kenton to the Three Way community near Jackson in Vaughn’s memory.
Vaughn, a 30-year-old Obion County native, was one of 30 U.S. servicemen — including 17 elite Navy SEALs — who died early Aug. 6 when a rocket-propelled grenade fired by a Taliban insurgent downed their helicopter en route to a combat mission in Afghanistan.
He was the son of Karen (Rodenberger) and Billy Vaughn Jr. of Stuart, Fla., formerly of Obion County, and the grandson of Geneva and Billy Vaughn Sr. of Union City and Evelyn Rodenberger of Knoxville and the late Frank Rodenberger, who formerly made their home in Woodland Mills.
In 2010, Kellogg ran 50 miles from Newbern to Jackson in memory of U.S. Army Sgt. Israel “Izzy” O’Bryan, who died June 11, 2010, in Iraq when a suicide attacker detonated an explosives-rigged car. O’Bryan graduated from Dyer County High School in Newbern and attended the University of Tennessee at Martin.
Last year’s run — in which Kellogg ran 50 miles in 11 hours and was joined at points along the route by other runners — raised money for the college fund of O’Bryan’s 1-year-old son. The effort was featured in a documentary, “50 for Izzy.”
This year, organizers of the West Tennessee Patriot Run want to make the effort more of a community event and are urging local residents to be involved in a pre-run prayer vigil and a 5K run/walk, as well as Kellogg’s actual long-distance run and a post-run celebration.
“We decided that, al-though P.J. ran the race last year for Izzy and he started this event this year, we want o make it instead of P.J. running, it’s West Tennessee running. That way, we could get the most people involved,” said Jennie Keel of Jackson, one of the organizers.
In addition to honoring Vaughn’s memory and raising money for the Wounded Warrior Project, organizers want the West Tennessee Patriot Run to show support for troops who are currently deployed in service for their nation. She noted the National Guard units in both Union City and Trenton are deployed.
“It’s about the memory of those who are gone, but also definitely showing the other families that we’re here in support of them. That’s why we made it the West Tennessee Patriot Run — so that we could get all of the community involved,” she said.
The events
The West Tennessee Patriot Run on Oct. 15 will officially kick off in Kenton with a 5K (3.1 miles) run or walk. Kellogg and other long-distance runners will start off with the 5K participants but then continue down the highway on their 35-mile trek.
“We wanted to start with a 5K event in Kenton where the runners going the full distance will continue running,” Mrs. Keel said. “The 5K people will start with them, but will turn around and come back (at about the 1 1/2-mile point). The others will keep running the long distance.”
Mrs. Keel emphasized that the 5K does not have to be a race or even a run. She said participants can walk the entire 3.1 miles in memory of someone.
“It does not have to be a race. It can just be your own personal event,” she said, adding that organizers want as much community involvement as possible.
For everyone involved, the run/walk will begin at 7 a.m. at Kenton First Baptist Church, located at 204 South Poplar St.
Registration for the 5K is $20 by Oct. 10 and $25 after Oct. 10, with registration to begin at 6:30 a.m. on the run day. More information, an advance registration form and a map of the full run route are available by visiting West Tennessee Patriot Run on Facebook or by emailing
The 35-mile long distance run will end the afternoon of Oct. 15 at Pine Hill Park in the Three Way community with the West Tennessee Freedom Celebration, where there will be music, concessions and family-oriented activities. Kellogg and others will speak.
Estimated arrival times at the checkpoints and the Three Way celebration will be posted soon on the Facebook page.
“Because of aches and pains and cramps and stops (during the run), we may not be there at an exact time,” Mrs. Keel said.
The run will be preceded by a prayer vigil Oct. 14 at 7 p.m. at Kenton First Baptist Church. The community is invited to join others in prayer as they support the troops and their families.
Several of Vaughn’s family members have indicated they plan to be in attendance at the events, according to organizers.
Get involved
Besides participating in the 5K run or walk, Mrs. Keel said the community can become involved in the effort in several other ways as well.
For example, if people want to run 10 or even 20 miles, they can check out the route map and estimated arrival times in certain areas and join the distance runners anywhere along the route from Kenton to Three Way. They could choose to run the first 10 miles or the last 10 miles or any distance in between.
“Our intention is to have a large running event,” she said.
There will be checkpoints and designated stops where runners can get water and fruit or where other runners may wish to join the cause for a few miles. Volunteers are also needed to help staff those checkpoints.
To volunteer to assist, contact Mrs. Keel at (731) 695-5891 or organizer Susan Taylor at (731) 445-8340.
Among the checkpoints will be the National Guard armory in Trenton, as a show of support for the families of those deployed. The final pit stop along the long route will be the Tennessee State Veterans’ Home in Humboldt.
Mrs. Keel said the community can also help by showing support along the route, whether it’s putting out American flags or cheering alongside the road.
“We want to encourage people that if we’re in your neighborhood or we’re running down your street, put flags out. If you own a business or you go to church or are somewhere on this route, get out and cheer us on,” she said. “We’re looking for volunteers in the area just to be supportive.
“This year, I would really like to say ‘get here, get here, get here.’ Plug yourself in. For 10 minutes, stand and wait and cheer the runners on, wave a flag and then go on about your day. That’s really something that the community could do to help us and keep the runners encouraged,” she said.
“If people from here can come to Three Way or stage flags along the route — just be there, just be with other people who love their country. It’s going to be a good time. I feel like we could really show the families that are left behind right now that there is support here for them.”
Reason to run
All money raised at the Oct. 15 event will benefit the Wounded Warrior Project, which exists to honor and empower wounded warriors who incurred service-connected injuries on or after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
More information is available online at
Mrs. Keel said a previous fundraiser a couple years ago in the Jackson area raised several thousand dollars for the Wounded Warrior Project and a fundraiser earlier this month in Jackson raised about $5,000 for the Navy SEAL Foundation.
“We’re trying to help someone else, too, the ones who make it home,” she said. “We believe that’s where Aaron and those who didn’t make it would want it to go — to those still suffering through it.”
Staff Reporter Chris Menees may be contacted by email at
Published in The Messenger 9.29.11

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