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When Danial had just graduated high school, money was tight and the future was uncertain. Living in a small town and not having stellar grades, there weren’t many options left open to him.

He really liked working on cars, big rigs, computers, and anything else with his hands. He would have liked to receive some education or some training, but what is a young man to do with no money…join the military.

Danial wasn’t the gung ho kill ‘em all sort. He enlisted in the National Guard, because he felt that way he could help out those in his own community, and if need be, he would go and serve others somewhere in the US.

That is exactly what Dan did after Katrina. He was deployed to all parts of the south, he drove trucks and bulldozers, shored up levies, and helped create emergency housing for those in need.

He felt good about it. He is a good person, a great person really, but finally he had the ability to really help others.

Growing up the only son of a divorced mother is difficult. There are constant battles, most of them small, but dealing with how to be a man. How does one learn to be a man when the only men you see around you aren’t living up to the archetypes displayed on our sitcoms?

Dan did all right though—he became a great man. But, who that man was and is was about to be tested, tested in ways Danial didn’t even know where possible.

Because of these stupid F#@KING wars, this sweet kid, who really only started to come to know who he really was, what he believed, and where he stood was sent to Afghanistan. Dan joined the National Guard on purpose, because they are only supposed to be used for domestic defense thus…National Guard.

Greed for oil, land, and valuable minerals changed that.

In Afghanistan, Danial was stationed at 9000 feet. In the summer the trucks they rode in reached 140 degrees. In mid winter, -40. The altitude and weather took a toll on the equipment as easily as it took effect on the men. But these were manageable obstacles, chicken scratch compared to those that lay ahead.

Danial did his basic training in Georgia in the summer…it seems that nothing in the military was going to be easy on him. Perhaps that should have been a sign or a powerful portent of things that lay ahead.

Dan had seen his share of combat, but since he was part of a supply line convoy, less than others. That all changed one day when he was driving a Humvee escorting a supply chain.  An IED in the road knocked Dan out of the vehicle as quickly as it knocked the life out of some of the passengers. The gunner on top survived, but just barely, his face is literally gone.

That haunts Dan. That guy was his best friend. He feels responsible. Perhaps if he had paid more attention, perhaps if he had seen the IED, perhaps perhaps perhaps….

Dan didn’t walk away unscathed. His back was broken. He is able to walk with a walker, but not for long. These events and others like it force him to take heavy doses of painkillers like methadone just to get to sleep at night…and to keep him from sleepwalking…or attacking his wife while asleep.

It isn’t sleep walking so much. The PTSD, which he carries as a constant reminder for the rest of his life, keeps him from enjoying things with his family. A Christmas gathering of family to see the new Captain America film turned sour for him and forced him to leave the theater. The gun noise and violence haunts him always.

So it is with yesterday’s observance of Veterans Day, that I recall my dear cousin Danial. Throughout the country as I ran, I was constantly asked, “Why are you doing this?” There were always two answers.

  1. I couldn’t think of a better way for me, as a single human being to try to effect and affect peace in the world. I had to be peace.
  2. I was doing it for my cousin Danial, and all the men and women just like him. Kids who wanted to do the right thing, to help, to be a patriot, to love his fellow Americans, and to serve others.

If what I do and did, can in any way keep others from being hurt, harmed, and f$#ked up by beaurocrats and greedy corporations that grind young men and women as grist within the mill of corporate slavery and indentured servitude…I will.

However, the story wouldn’t be complete without the happy ending. Since returning, Dan has gotten married and has two beautiful babies, a boy and a girl. Just bought a new car, and today, because of the kindness of people just like you, people who donated to a program called the Wounded Warrior Project—Dan received a new house…for free.

If that isn’t the best way for a person to celebrate Veterans Day…I don’t know what is? Love a Veteran by supporting peace.

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