Thursday, September 24, 2009

Around Town: Points of Light

The hospital is different from all others. The staff is more dedicated because they view the patients as family. The patients are young, otherwise healthy, with strength of will.

A few days into his third deployment, as a member of Seal Team One, Lt. Dan Cnossen stepped on a pressure plate IED. The device was underground and was designed to be activated when someone stepped on it. The Taliban generally surrounds the mine with rusty metal and human excrement to increase the risk of infection.

Thankfully, there were no AP reporters (e.g. Julie Jacobson) ready to film the next moments. Dan was flown to Germany for initial treatment. He arrived at the National Naval Medical Center at Bethesda, Md., on Sept. 11, with both legs amputated at the knee, significant abdominal injuries, fractures and in a coma.

I got the word about Dan from his class and company mate, Brian Ray. They were in 23rd Company at the Naval Academy with our son. Brian set up a blog and a website to collect donations.

You might think that all Navy Seals were born in the water. Brian notes that Dan grew up in Topeka, Kan. on a small farm owned by his grandfather. When he arrived at the Naval Academy in July of 1998, Dan did not know how to swim. In fact, he had never seen the ocean. Four years later, as captain of the Naval Academy triathlon team, he led the team to a national championship. advertisement

You may think that wounded warriors have all their expenses covered. Not so. Dan’s mom, a school teacher, and his sister took unpaid leaves of absences from their jobs in Kansas and New York. The Navy Seals foundation donated an apartment and someone lent them a car. Alice and Leslie spend their days at the hospital.

The early days were less certain, but on Sept. 15, Dan woke up from his coma “like a light bulb.” His mother wrote:

“I received a text message from Dan’s nurse first thing in the morning telling me to come right away. When I got to the hospital Dan was off the breathing tube, awake, alert, and talking!! He remembers everything in theater, including the blast injury and being carried to the helicopter. He is aware of the extent of his injuries and has a remarkable attitude. He is so positive and looking forward to the future. Dan is surrounded by friends and family and can’t stop telling everyone how lucky he feels. We love Dan so much, and are so proud of him. It’s been a very emotional day for everyone — we really feel that everybody’s prayers have made the difference here.”

Whatever your feelings about the war, our troops don’t get to choose. They go where we send them.

On Saturday, Oct. 17, at La Jolla Shores, there will be an un-timed run, swim and kayak event to honor Dan and to raise money for his recovery. If you’d like to follow Dan’s progress, donate or attend the La Jolla event, information will be available at

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