SOF Week

The 1983 Death Valley Run

I had never heard the story of the 1983 Death Valley Run and it all revolves around this extraordinary man named Lionel “Choo Choo” Pinn. Now, I was familiar with 1SG Pinn as a kid in the 80s because I used to read up on the Vietnam war a lot so I knew he was a triple CIB awardee for combat in WW II, Korea and Vietnam. I had also learned that this Special Forces Veteran was nicknamed “Choo Choo” because he was always smoking cigars, even while running, so the smoke he trailed reminded everyone of a train, a “Lionel” Train.

He was a Native American with parents hailing from the Osage, Douge (Doeg), and Mi’kmaq tribes. 1SG Pinn was also a second generation Soldier. It’s guys like this that inspired me to join the Army. There’s a whole lot of his story here and it’s worth your time to read. It’s quite inspirational.

His whole carerr is amazing, but then after retiring from the military, he and some other former paratroopers cooked up a scheme to parachute in Death Valley and run 15 miles a day until they made it 100 miles, in honor of their fellow Vietnam Vets. Here’s an intro from a local TV station.

A documentary was made of their trek and it’s offered in two parts. Narrated by Martin Sheen.

Part 1

Part 2

5 Responses to “The 1983 Death Valley Run”

  1. iggy says:

    Really good stuff, thanks for posting it, And damn, that sounds like Martin Sheen narrating too.

  2. Sapperldr35 says:

    I would love to read or hear the stories he could tell and not just about the 3 wars he was in, definitely a legend.

  3. Jim SOTech says:

    I just learned about this jump and run because another participant was Gary Beikirch, an 18D and MoH recipient with an amazing story. His daughter posted the story because Gary passed over Christmas. Also a tremendous hero and a good friend.

  4. CM says:

    I had the honor to meet him through Nick Rowe. Both amazing men. That mold was broken long ago.