Judson alumni completes “World’s Toughest Row” in his journey to recovery


Photo By: Provided by John Fannin.

Marine John Fannin (standing) celebrates his return from the rowing competition. He is a 2004 graduate of Judson High School.

Upon the return from military service, many veterans find that the transition to civilian life can be extremely difficult and oftentimes. This can be attributed to mental health challenges related to their time in service.

In past years, the US has come a long way to acknowledge the mental health struggles veterans face, but these veterans still struggle daily. 

One local veteran, 2004 Judson graduate Marine John Fannin, took on the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge to help cope with his own mental health struggles and raise money for veterans through a non-profit organization, Fight Oar Die

Fannin, along with three other veterans, spent 50 days on the ocean, which came with its own mental, physical and relational challenges. 

“It’s one of those things, you know, you’re going to have some conflicts, but you have to find a way to work things out,” Fannin said. 

This challenge and the team’s mission hit close to home for Fannin, being a struggling veteran himself. 

“I had a difficult time when I came back,” Fannin said. “It was a little bit of a difficult transition and I didn’t really have any direction”

After returning from Iraq in 2008, Fannin found that civilian life was not as easy as he thought, and even though he did everything right, he found little success in his life. 

“After I graduated, I was finding absolutely no work and no jobs,” Fannin said. “There wasn’t anything that was gonna be a career and that was very disheartening.” 

Finally, after many years of depression and counseling, Fannin found work in a very surprising place which would put him on the path to meet his future team. 

“I was going to counseling and then I got a job working at Grunt Style doing something I’ve never done as a staff writer,” Fannin said. “Fast forward to 2018, I found out about these guys sailing across the ocean and wanted to interview them for a story. Then, for the 2019 team, they put out a call for applications and I submitted mine as a joke and they actually picked me.”

Though the race came with many challenges, this journey helped Fannin with his own mental health. 

“This was the hardest thing I’ve done in my entire life, but I came out of it with a more accurate idea of who I was as a person and it did wonders for my mental health,” Fannin said. 

Throughout this journey, Fannin relied on a daily choice to keep himself moving forward. 

“You have to wake up every morning and make the decision if you’re going to be a victim or a victor,” Fannin said. “But when you make that choice every day to be a victor, that goes a long way to helping yourself heal and do the things that are worthwhile.”


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