Army Education News

The Road to Rio: A U.S. Army Reserve Soldier’s Journey to the 2016 Olympic Games

Sep 19, 2016


Competitive race-walker and U.S. Army Reserve Soldier Staff Sgt. John Nunn officially is a three-time Olympian following the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. He is one of six Soldier athletes from the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program (WCAP) who proudly represented our Nation in this Summer’s 2016 Olympic Games.

“To know that I wore my U.S. Army uniform metaphorically underneath my Team USA uniform was stronger and better than anything I could have imagined,” said Nunn, who credits his achievement as an Olympic athlete to the skills fostered in the force over the past 10 years. “It has enabled me to adapt as a Soldier, Olympian, father and newfound entrepreneur.”

Nunn hasn’t always been a race walker. Growing up, he thought the idea of race-walking professionally seemed ridiculous. It wasn’t until a cross-country scholarship fell through after high school that he adapted to race-walking and traveled the world for competitions.

U.S. Army Reserve Soldier and three-time Olympian Staff Sgt. John Nunn competes in races nationwide as part of his preparation an training for Olympic trials and other international competitions. (Photos by Tim Hipps, IMCOM Public Affairs)

Nunn’s global exposure fueled his desire to contribute to society. He participated in several missions that refined his passion for selfless leadership.

“I’ve traveled the world and seen what people have and don’t have,” he said. “I wanted to do something that was bigger than myself.”

After four years in active duty, Nunn became a Reserve Soldier, which enabled him to serve his country part-time, obtain specialized training, and balance life as a single father.

“The opportunity to wear my uniform one weekend a month is a constant reminder of what I’m a part of,” said Nunn, who said joining the Army Reserve was the most appealing option to evolve personally and professionally with time and resources to accomplish his goals.

Working as a dental hygienist, Soldier and athlete weren’t enough for the highly driven Nunn, so he and his 12-year-old daughter together launched a cookie business. What started as a hobby to spend time together has evolved into a cookie company, an opportunity that Nunn uses to instill Army values in his daughter Ella.

“She’s learned to solve problems and find solutions when a particular recipe doesn’t work,” he said. “Money doesn’t grow on trees. In our case it grows in the oven.”

The business is a special pastime for the two, setting aside the extra money for Ella’s college fund and an annual family vacation.

Nunn trusted his U.S. Army training to sustain his drive at this year’s Games, where he competed alongside 80 athletes and placed 43rd in the Men’s 50 km.

“When I race, it’s not just for me. It’s for my family, my country and Soldiers I serve both past and present.”

After Rio, Nunn returned home to San Diego, Calif., to purse his career goal of becoming a physician’s assistant.

“I’m excited for this next chapter. The Army has provided me with the resources to follow both my athletic and professional dreams.”

For more information on the lifelong benefits of U.S. Army Reserve service, visit

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