Former North Arlington Resident Runs for Awareness

Photo by Debbie Melamed/ Gunnery sergeant Dacey poses with his dog Isti on Blue Star Memorial Highway, Honoring Armed forces who served in WW2.


By Anthony J. Machcinski

It was Mohandas Ghandi who once said, “Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” Gunnery Sergeant James J. Dacey, a former North Arlington resident, has the indomitable will Ghandi was speaking of.
Dacey is in the middle of a 345-mile run from Camp LeJeune, N.C. to Bethesda, Md. in order to raise awareness and support for the Wounded Warrior Project.
“It’s my way of giving back to fellow service members who have been wounded,” explains Dacey.
The idea for this run started when Dacey was on duty in Afghanistan. The original plan was for Dacey to run across the nation, but after realizing the estimated time it would take, and the amount of time off he could take from the Marines, he decided to do a smaller run.
It was in Afghanistan that Dacey saw first hand what he would be running for.
“Some of the stories just blow your mind,” Dacey said, talking about different men he had met, including one who had a bullet sever his jugular vein, but luckily survived. It is these stories that keep Dacey driven to continue running.
“(When running), I think about where I’m at on the run and what I’m doing,” Dacey said.



Gunnery sergeant Dacey, pictured above, as he passes some landmarks on his 345 mile journey.

Dacey began training for the run while in Afghanistan. He started training by running 5-6 miles a day while pulling a tire along with him. When his unit returned home, Dacey went from a 185-pound tire up to a 225-pound one.
“My own belief is that you can train your body to do anything,” remarked Dacey, who runs about 17-20 miles every day during the run.
Even before the run began, many of Dacey’s friends doubted him. “Most people didn’t think it was possible,” explained Dacey. “Most people said to me, ‘You know your body isn’t going to be able to handle the abuse every day.’”
It was this doubt that continued to drive Dacey.
“Sometimes when people tell you that you can’t do something, you want to do it even more,” Dacey believes.
Even with all the motivation of thousands of wounded warriors behind him, running 17 to 20 miles per day has to get slightly monotonous. To combat the boredom that could make Dacey focus on the pain of the run instead of its main objective, he looks to older technology to help him.
“I don’t use an iPod, I use a cassette deck,” Dacey said. “It’s got the music I listened to when I grew up. I also brought pre-recorded books, a lot of Zig Ziglar and documentaries on Abraham Lincoln – anything to keep my mind off the people driving. They can be dangerous.”
With his own safety in mind, Dacey brought his mother, Debbie Melamed, with him for the long journey. While Dacey runs, Melamed drives a car a couple of miles ahead, scouting the road and letting Dacey know, via personal radio, what may lie ahead.
“I’ll wait maybe until he is on the run depending on the road to see that he’s going ok,” explained Melamed. “I’m like a mile or two ahead of him. We have radios if there is something he should come up to.”
While the terrain and sheer punishment on the body is enough of a challenge for Dacey, there has been one unexpected challenge.
“We’ve had a couple instances with dogs,” Melamed said. “It’s a learning experience.”
Wounded Warrior Project began when several veterans and friends created a program to provide items to wounded veterans as they recover from injuries incurred in the war. Thousands of wounded warriors are helped by the funds that the program raises each year. These programs not only help them recover physically, but mentally as well.
Dacey hopes to gain support for the cause by raising money for the project. As someone makes a donation, there is a count that shows how much money he has been able to make. As of November 6, Dacey has raised over $16,000 for the cause.
As Dacey continues his run, his mother, who has been able to watch the process first hand, continues to be moved by his actions.
“It’s hard for me to fathom the strength,” explained Melamed. “It’s been amazing to watch the whole process. I’ve had a front row seat and that’s been an amazing gift.”
Dacey will finish his run on Veterans Day in Bethesda, Md. To donate to the Wounded Warrior Project, go to

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