The extreme challenge arrived Sept. 8. He had prepared all his life for this moment and chose to meet it head on and survive – truly a miracle. Rarely does a person survive the wounds he suffered. He survived because he didn’t want his mom to have lost a husband, mom, dad and son within 10 years. He kept going through incredible pain. The medics who saved his life, the surgeons in Bagram and Landstuhl who stabilized him for transport to National Naval Medical Center at Bethesda, the excellent medical teams who have cared for him daily since his arrival here – all have converged to bring him to his destiny today: to embark upon many new adventures and turn over a new leaf in his life: healing, recovery, rehabilitation, reconnection with family and fellow wounded warriors, perhaps serving as an inspiration to many as he starts this long, arduous journey toward renewed health and joyful living.
Many here at NNMC have warned us: three steps forward, one step back, then three steps forward again. It’s a Marathon, not a sprint. This weekend, Daniel had a few steps backward. After four surgeries in five days last week, he badly needed rest. Thank you to all for respecting his weekend respite. You have continued to let his sister and me know you care by logging onto the Web site, calling and leaving messages, sending cards and well wishes galore. We so appreciate your prayers, care and concern! As we get through a little period of setback where Daniel’s bowels are resting, he again can’t eat or drink. He is always fighting nausea and vomiting. He's back to the OR tomorrow again, for more amputation revision and preparation for skin grafting. The pin they placed in his pelvis also has to be adjusted, as well as surgical repair of a broken right hand (his left hand is also broken). On the bright side, he no longer has a fever and his wounds are healing beautifully. His surgeries have been reduced to twice a week, and he is on the surgical ward where things are a little more private and restful. He continues to thank everyone for caring for him and expresses his gratitude for everyone’s prayers and well wishes. He is anxious to mend and begin communicating with all of you on his own. We need to be patient and will rejoice when that day comes soon.
I’m going to take a big risk and name some names. These are the people for whom Leslie and I and our family are so grateful. I know I will overlook some, and for that, I truly apologize. I feel the need, though, to thank people for your truly amazing support at this point. I can’t send thank you notes, as that would be overwhelming, so this is my humble attempt to thank you for keeping us buoyed up through this tremendously challenging and difficult time in our lives. Without you, we would be lost. Our sincere and heartfelt thanks to:
LT Kelly Bowman, ICU nurse and friend who will forever be in our hearts and family.
Westar co-workers and friends – you are truly angels of mercy. Daniel said yesterday, “It’s so nice of your company to let you be off this long,” and Leslie said, “Mom, you work with such WONDERFUL people at Westar!”
Pastor Judy, Shawnee Heights United Methodist Church, and Fr. Jerry, St. Matthew Catholic Church and entire church and parish for prayers and prayer blanket. Chaplain Wes Modder, part of the initial contingent who came to our Topeka home to comfort and pray with us. A very inspirational man!
CMDR Keith Davids, Daniel's commanding officer, SEAL Team ONE, who initially called me with the news while I was at lunch Sept. 8 with Leila...you handled giving me the news in a very caring and professional manner, and my family appreciates how you kept calling every day to see how we were doing, up to the day you deployed, and still you offered us your cell phone to call you if we need anything.
Topekans, Stormont-Vail friends, Shawnee Heights High School community, neighbors and family friends, Shawnee County Coroner's Office friends, Topeka Police Dept. A special thanks to Leslie’s high school friends and their parents – you guys are the BEST!
Cnossen families, England sisters, Nina-Gracie-Maria-Marilyn-Jeanine-Janelle-Leila-Karla-Gina-Laura-Public Affairs (Westar)-Jeffrey Energy Center coworkers and the always generous and supportive Environmental department for all the transitions and changes Jeff has been through –you’ve been there for us! Sharon and Deborah, my faithful friends, and Jill-Connie-Nancy -- thank you for your calls/messages/support!
SEALs, USNA, DC families and friends, San Diego buddies, Virginia Beach supporters: you’re the best! Thanks for adopting us and taking time from your busy lives to stop by to visit us and ask how Daniel is doing.
Kristen Dreier, longtime SHHS friend – you are faithful!
Maryann: world class triathlete from San Diego and a fellow nurturer: we are grateful for you flying here to be supportive this week.
Kimberly Dozier, CBS news correspondent and author of Breathing the Fire: thank you for adopting us and introducing Leslie to your friends. Your tips about what Daniel can expect in coming months have been invaluable.
Kathy Maguire, USSOCOM Care Coalition volunteer liaison, your cookies, and you, are marvelous and great comfort to us!
Tommy and Kandon Landers and mom Candace – thank you for your lovely notes/artwork now displayed in Daniel’s room. Jeff’s support and love through all this has been incredible!
For all your visits and words of support and praise for Dan - thank you so much:
Admiral Eric Olson
Vice Admiral Joseph Maguire
Vice Admiral Joseph D. Kernan
Vice Admiral Bob Harward
RDML Edward G. Winters
Capt. Alexander Krongard
CDR Tom Chaby
RDML Losey and “JOHNIEEEE”
Medical team at NNMC: Drs. Perdue, Fleming, Malone, Greer, urological and orthopedic teams, residents, pain specialists –best in the world!
Chaplains, Dr. Sabin and other behavioral medicine specialists, nutritionists, PTs, OTs, nurses and corpsmen
Wally Graves and Susan Letterman, Naval Special Warfare Group 1 family support – our backbone and absolute joys to have around
MSgt Christian “Mack” MacKenzie, USSOCOM Care Coalition liaison - always cheerful, helpful, and tells the best stories!
Command Master Chief Kevin James, SEAL Team One - you are a legend!
Chief Glenn Hansen – you were with Daniel in those crucial initial days and nights and got him safely to us! God bless you for that.
Nick Hill from Team SEVEN coming back from deployment - thank you for your support.
Team SEVEN who signed the flag hanging in Daniel’s room.
Chief Jon Cummings…with broken neck and back, you still wanted to “run with Dan!” Thanks for being there for us!
Mark Lippert and Brian Gugliatti – true caring friends on Capitol Hill.
Matt Flavin - ditto. Your calls mean a lot to us.
Jon Iadonisi, your friendship and fine mind are inspirational.
Admiral Nathan and Chief O’Keefe – you run a great place here at NNMC!
Crofoot family – Mike and Carol, Tiko and Koro – Daniel is part of your family, and we love you.
The Kulczycki family - what great 1st grade artwork and notes! Thanks, Garrett, for sending those pictures to Leslie.
Pam and Rob Ketter who visited us during Rob’s USNA 30th reunion Sept. 26 – uplifting! Thank you!
Debbie Lee, mom of first Navy SEAL killed in Iraq: Marc Alan Lee. Your dedication to the troops is awesome!
Friends for life: Anthony Donahue, Niko Sidiropoulos, Marty and Erin Timmons, Sean Macintosh, Rob and Cara Bocek and Margaret/Robert; Ben Zuber and Dan/Beverly; Darren and John Bounds; Donny and Tina Muller; Brian and Biggi Ray; Sean Dudley, David Farias; so many more…I’ve lost count…but you know who you are and how we appreciate you!
As my longtime friend Billie Hall said recently in a phone conversation with me, there’s a whole village following Daniel’s progress and praying for him. We can’t thank you enough. God bless you all and God bless our leaders and country. Please keep the prayers coming for them and the tough decisions they face.
I close with this piece from Guardian Quest’s teaching on warriorship (thanks to Westar for sending its employees to this awe-inspiring course):
A lot of what we do is to protect ourselves. We get locked into our roles, and then we are not as effective as we can be, because we are holding onto people and things that are stifling us…
Letting go of what we are aware no longer serves us now and walking into the unknown is taking the next step as a warrior.
It’s about being out front … moving beyond limits.
There is an innate desire in all creatures to grow.
Yet in any type of growth and change, something has to end for something new to begin!
Peace and love to our village!