After the death of my husband, I began to receive phone calls and messages from hundreds of people who knew him. They consistently called him a hero and praised his bravery, tenacity, talents and strengths. When I read articles that have been written about him after his death by people who did not know him, I see him painted as a victim who was overcome by the failures of the systems. The lives he saved and things he accomplished are pushed to the side or ignored all together.
The system failed him, true, but there was so much more to Daniel that was lost and is not being seen or discussed.
I met Daniel when we were 12 years old. He was a quiet, nerdy kid who was always willing to help when he could. He was the one who was always there to listen and explain pesky math word problems. As we got older, I saw him continue to give of himself for others.
After September 11, 2001, he decided that he could serve his country and humanity as a whole by joining the military. He used his brilliance, courage and strength to save lives and complete missions. His strength of character allowed him to have a security clearance and, while he and the soldiers he worked with could not talk about missions he was on, I was told spontaneously both before and after his death that he saved lives, protected the people on his team, and safeguarded the civilians the team encountered.
One particular call I received comes to mind. While he was on his first deployment to Iraq, the phone rang at home at “zero dark thirty” (one of his favorite phrases for any time too early to be up). It was my Daniel and he said, “Hey, I have someone who wants to talk to you.” A man came on the phone and said, “I want you know your husband beautiful man … do great things for country Iraq.” I was never sure exactly who he was, but Daniel said that he was in the Iraqi government at the time. I feel like that statement exemplifies his work with the Iraqis.
When Daniel came home he continued to use his talents to help others. While at the Defense Language Institute (DLI) learning Arabic he would often go in early and stay late to help his fellow soldiers learn. He would do things like take an extra duty assignment for a fellow soldier so that they could attend their child’s birthday party. There is a picture that has been posted and printed with multiple articles about Daniel of the two of us at an Army Ball in Monterey. I remember feeling so proud when time after time I was approached and told how smart, talented, funny and all-around amazing Daniel was. In typical Daniel fashion, he just accepted the compliments with a smile and occasional self-deprecating humor.
I have been told that you can see in the photo just how proud I was to be the woman standing with such an amazing man, while his smile is neither arrogant nor conceited.
After DLI, Daniel’s coworkers in Washington, D.C., and Virginia continued to lavish the same type of compliments on him. Once he was done with the military and came home and began writing, playing, recording and producing music the words that were used to describe Daniel by those who worked with him changed some, but his effect on those he encountered and his consistent efforts to help others coupled with his incredible talent were still what would often make the biggest impression on people. “Dan made our band what it is.” “Dan really gave me the confidence to run with [the music] and take the leap.” The whole time I have known Daniel, the words “never could have done it without him” have been said to me countless times.
I could write for hours about his fantastic qualities, and my hope is that others will remember those qualities when they write and speak about him as well.
We must not forget the lives lived by soldiers we have lost because those are what were taken from us by the failings in the systems that were put in place to help soldiers like Daniel after their service.
We work to fix the system in Daniel’s honor — not because of his death, but because of who he was in life.
Return to Laura’s 9/11 Veteran’s page.