Write to Dan

Mail can be sent to Dan at:

Lt Dan Berschinski
PO Box 4180
6900 Georgia Ave NW
Washington DC 20307


The End, But Not Really

I thought about beginning this post with an apology for taking so long to write up the events of last weekend, but it seemed that most of you were there anyway.  For those who couldn't make it, it will be impossible to put in words what the day felt like, so I will leave the profundities for another time.  For those of you who could join us, thank you for running and walking, flag waving and cheering, laughing and crying, sweating and sogging.  To more people than we know, the Berschinski family again says Thank You.

With that, and at Dan's request, I am ending this blog.

It's a testament to Dan that this news will come as a disappointment to some.  But life goes on.  That's Dan's whole point, I think, and why people have been drawn to his story.  During a war, like all others, in which some do not come home -- one from his platoon, two from our own community, and another nine in the last two days -- his life goes on.      

And so I leave you with Dan's speech.  Watching it is time well spent.



Dan spent the last two weeks at  Prosthetic and Orthotic Associates of Central Florida getting fitted with great new sockets that have taken his walking to a new level.  Progress is still slow, but on his last day in Orlando, Dan walked half a mile, twice as long as his previous personal best.

Tomorrow, May 26 is Dan's B-Day.  Tonight the Vice President and Dr. Biden had Dan and some other guys over for a BBQ and a birthday cake.  My apologies for the tone-deaf guy singing too loudly in the video.

Looking forward to seeing everyone this weekend!


Homecoming -- the latest latest


Dan will be making his first visit back home to Peachtree City on Saturday, May 29 -- Memorial Day weekend.  The good people of PTC and Fayette County have put together several nice activities for folks to join in and opportunities to say hello and welcome him back.


Festivities will start at 8:00 am on Saturday with an All-American 5K road race sponsored by the Peachtree City Running Club.  Runners, walkers and phantom runners are all invited to participate. Proceeds will be given to Dan's Fund this year and to various veterans groups in the years to come.  All who register and come out by 8 a.m. will receive a race tee shirt.  Dan will be on hand to start the race, and will be giving out awards at the end.  More information and the application depicted above can be printed from the race website here:  All-American 5K.  

**UPDATE** -- The All American Race's Race Director asks that if you or your friends or students are planning to attend, PLEASE fill out the registration form and get it in as soon as possible. Shirts have to be ordered and only those registered ahead and physically at the race prior to 8am will be guaranteed a shirt.

Dan will then be escorted through Fayetteville to Peachtree City by a motorcycle escort sponsored by the Patriot Guard Riders and Great South Harley-Davidson.  The ride will depart from Fayette County High at 11:50a.m., **UPDATED TIME** and then follow this route:

Left on Hwy 54 past Fayetteville Courthouse Square to Jeff Davis

Left on Jeff Davis and left again on Hwy 54 rounding the Square to Peachtree City

Hwy 54 Fayetteville to Peachtree City 8.5 miles

Left on Peachtree Parkway

Right on McIntosh Trail

Left on Hwy 74

Left on Crosstown Road

Left on Peachtree Parkway

Left on Hwy 54

Left on Willow Bend Road

Ending at Peachtree City Hall for the 1:00p.m. ceremony.

American Flags will be distributed at the following viewing locations along the route:

Fayetteville Courthouse Square
Smith and Davis Clothing Store
Ace Hardware PTC
Euphoria Salon
Mimi’s Restaurant
Chic-fil-A on Hwy 54
CardSmart in the Braelinn Shopping Center
Huddleston Elementary
Along the Parkway, Courtesy of JC Booth Science Olympians
Partner’s Pizza
PTC City Hall Park

The technically savvy can view the official Ride Plan here:  http://rideplanner.harley-davidson.com/rideplanner/road.jsp?roadId=309312&locale=en_US

At 1:00 p.m. Dan will be joined at PTC's City Hall by PTC Mayor Don Haddix, who will read a proclamation; and Fayette County Commissioner Eric Maxwell, the Command Surgeon, U.S. Forces Command, Colonel Brian Lein, and McIntosh HS Cross Country and Track Coach Charles Buckle, who will give speeches.  Dan will then have an opportunity to thank all of you for your support.

Finally, starting at 7:30 p.m the Frederick Brown Amphitheater is hosting a free Memorial Day program featuring the Army Ground Forces Band -- "the musical ambassador of the American Combat Soldier to the American people."  It looks to be a very special evening, with tributes to honor area family members currently serving as well as those who have given their lives in service to their country.  

**UPDATE** -- All residents with family members who are either currently serving, have served, are retired, or if have passed away are requested to visit www.peachtree-city.org to register names for the tribute.  The concert is free to all.

Check back for updates, and mark May 29th on your calendar!


"Dump Bag Project" Link

Those of you interested in voting to earn a grant for the bags a neighbor created to help Dan and other hospitalized vets -- see my post below -- can follow this link:  http://www.refresheverything.com/dumpbagproject.

You can vote every day in April.



Help out a great cause

When our neighbor Mary DeWerff saw that Dan would be spending a large amount of time in a hospital bed last summer, she decided she needed to make him a little bag to hold all his stuff.  She designed and produced a pouch that clipped easily to the bed and sent it to Dan, and from that point on, the bag was always at Dan's side.  Here's a picture of it between Dan and Sen Isakson:
Dan thought the bag was so useful that he asked Mary if she could make more for his buddies at Walter Reed.  Another soldier, home on leave from Afghanistan, stopped at Mary's house on Halloween, saw all the bags being made, and explained how similar they were to an equipment bag used by soldiers to hold random items, known as a dump pouch.  He suggested a name: The Dump Bag.

Mary and her friends at the Atlanta Sewing Guild have since made more than a hundred Dump Bags and sent them to Walter Reed.  She's been limited so far only by her ability to pay for supplies, but her goal is to provide Dump Bags to military hospitals around the country.  This is where you come in.

Pepsi Co is running a grant program called Refresh Everything in which the company gives away over a million dollars every month to worthy causes based on public voting.

Starting this Thursday, April 1, Mary's cause, the Dump Bag Project,  will be up on the Pepsi Refresh Everything website for voting.  Mary is hoping enough people will vote for the Dump Bag Project that her group will be awarded a $5,000 grant.

To vote, search for Dump Bag Project on the main page.  Voters can vote each and every day during April.  More information can be found on the Facebook Fan Page for Dump Bag Project, or by emailing dumpbagproject@bellsouth.net.

Vote early, vote often, and help us help a really great cause.  Thanks.


"I hope Matt Damon plays me in the movie"

Doug Evans from Atlanta's Fox Five news station, who's been following Dan's progress for some time now, came up to Walter Reed earlier this week to see Dan and the MATC in person.  Doug puts together a really great piece.  Dan's comment:  "I might be the first guy with no legs to have ever said 'crotch' on television." 



Assorted Media

Dan is now the official poster boy for Walter Reed:

Daily flutter kicks.  What's wrong with this picture?

Raleigh the helper dog doing what he does best:

And finally, what I'm sure everyone's been waiting for:


Some well-timed inspiration

Alpine skier Heath Calhoun is the first wounded Iraq War veteran to compete in the Paralympic Winter Games, which are starting up in Vancouver.  His sport is what Dan was up to earlier this week.  Worth a watch.


Homecoming -- May 29th


Dan will be making his first visit back home to Peachtree City on Saturday, May 29 -- Memorial Day weekend.  The good people of PTC and Fayette County have put together several nice activities for folks to join in and opportunities to say hello and welcome him back.


Festivities will start at 8:00 am on Saturday with an All-American 5K road race sponsored by the Peachtree City Running Club.  Runners, walkers and phantom runners are all invited to participate. Proceeds will be given to Dan's Fund this year and to various veterans groups in the years to come.  All who register and come out by 8 a.m. will receive a race tee shirt.  Dan will be on hand to start the race, and will be giving out awards at the end.  More information and the application depicted above can be printed from the race website here:  All-American 5K.

At 11:30 a.m., following the road race, Dan will be escorted through Fayetteville to Peachtree City by a motorcycle escort.  The exact route is still being finalized, but there will be an opportunity for friends and families to line the route, and various local organizations will donate and pass out American flags to wave.  Stay tuned for details.

At 1:00 p.m. Dan will be joined at PTC's City Hall by PTC Mayor Don Haddix, who will read a proclamation; and Fayette County Commissioner Eric Maxwell, the Command Surgeon, U.S. Forces Command, Colonel Brian Lein, and McIntosh HS Cross Country and Track Coach Charles Buckle, who will give speeches.  Dan will then have an opportunity to thank all of you for your support.

Finally, starting at 7:30 p.m the Frederick Brown Amphitheater is hosting a free Memorial Day program featuring the Army Ground Forces Band -- "the musical ambassador of the American Combat Soldier to the American people."  It looks to be a very special evening, with tributes to honor area family members currently serving as well as those who have given their lives in service to their country.  The concert is free to all.

Check back for updates, and mark May 29th on your calendar!


Ski Trip Coverage

Some pictures from what I now know is called the Vail Veterans Program can be found here at Vail Daily.


Ski Trip

You may have noticed that, due to budgetary pressures, the Washington bureau has had to scale back the pace of its operations as of late (danberschinski.blogspot.com, like so many of its peer organizations, has had difficulty surmounting challenges related to the 24-hour news cycle, to say the least!).  Luckily, the Denver bureau has picked up the slack.

Dan and several of his Wounded Warrior buddies are in Colorado this week for a ski trip hosted by the U.S. Paralympic Ski Team

On his way out of town, Dan was greeted at Washington Reagan National Airport here in D.C. by the intrepid men and women of the Transportation Safety Administration, who noticed that Dan simply could not get through the metal detector without setting off alarms, despite having no shoes to remove. 


Upon arrival in Colorado, the Wounded Warriors were greeted by local 5th graders singing the national anthem, who then "interviewed" the soldiers.  In the words of my reporter on the scene, it was "so cute!!"


To Dan's left in the picture above, by the way, is the world famous LTC Greg Gadson

On a completely different subject, I know many of you are eagerly awaiting the details of Dan's trip home to Fayette County, and I promise I'll post those details soon.


Aeromedical Video

A couple of months ago I posted on the aeromedical helicopter evacuation team that took Dan out of the Arghandab and brought him to Kandahar Air Field immediately after he was wounded.  Dan spent five days at KAF--much longer than average--before being flown back to Germany and then to Walter Reed because his condition was deemed too critical to fly.  Once he stabilized enough to make the journey, he flew home in a C-17 attended by a team of medical professionals like the ones from Travis AFB, CA profiled in this video.

To its credit, the Army did a great job of keeping my parents informed of Dan's condition and whereabouts during this terrible week.   Once we heard he had been cleared to fly out of Afghanistan, the Army called to assure my parents that he would be attended full-time during the flight by a 3-person team (you'll see this referenced in the video).  Hearing this really put us at ease.  Only weeks later were we told that these teams are only assigned to patients likely to die in-flight.


Update 1-17-10

Many folks have asked about updates on the timeline for Dan's rehab.  The bottom line is that it's going to take quite a while--probably on the order of a year or so more.  As you might expect, each soldier going through the rehab process is unique in terms of both the severity of his/her injury and his/her ability to acclimate to the challenges of using prosthetics.  With that in mind, each individual moves through the rehab process at a personalized rate, and so it's difficult to generalize a timeframe.

Dan, it seems, is progressing fairly quickly.  Here's a video from a walking session this week:

Those of you who have been following Dan's progress closely may sense that this video looks similar to those I posted in December, and you wouldn't be wrong.  Dan is still working on creating muscle memory and practicing his technique, and is still placing a fair amount of weight on the parallel bars at his sides as he works on his balance.  The differences, however, are twofold:  first, Dan now walks on his legs for about an hour a day, versus just a few minutes back in December; and second, the legs themselves (more accurately, the sockets that connect the legs to Dan's body) are constantly being tweaked by Walter Reed's technicians to better accommodate Dan's unique body shape and gait.

In fact, even in the week since I shot the movie above, the prosthetic technicians have made a fairly significant change to the socket on Dan's left leg that we're hopeful will be a major step in the right direction.

A good socket needs to be made of a rigid enough material--usually hard plastic--that it can hold Dan upright as he swings his C-leg while walking, and also hold him steady when standing.  The tradeoff for this rigidity is that it's pretty uncomfortable for Dan to sit down when he has his legs on, because he has the socket's layer of hard plastic between his body and the chair.

In response to this issue, Walter Reed's prosthetic technicians are developing sockets that use carbon fiber instead of plastic.  The carbon fiber runs along the inseam and outseam of the socket, and is so rigid and light that it allows for a soft plastic on the top and bottom of Dan's thigh.  The result is that the socket is rigid enough to support Dan when he's walking, and much more comfortable when he's sitting.  Here's a side shot of the carbon fiber socket:

Given that it's much easier for Dan to have his legs on now, we had a little fun last night.  Here's Dan showing me his range of motion:

And Dan and Sabrina comparing their relative flexibility:

What We've Learned

Here’s a powerful and hilarious essay from a soldier and triple amputee wounded in Iraq.  Those of you who know Dan well will see reflections in nearly every paragraph:  What I’ve Learned


Rehab Coverage

Atlanta's Fox Five news channel ran this nice segment on New Year's Day highlighting the efforts taken in support of Dan by family friend Ric O'Brien and recapping the early stages of Dan's rehab process.



Ok Dan, you're doing push-ups four months after being nearly killed.  But really, when you think about it, these are girl push-ups.



The Berschinski family hopes everyone out there had as wonderful a Christmas as we did.  Thanks go out to many of you for your letters and cards. 

Speaking of cards, Dan, as you might imagine, receives a tremendous amount of mail.  Since the first days after we learned he had been hurt, letters and care packages have poured in from around the country, week after week.  At first, they came from our local community and people that Dan had grown up with.  Soon though, the circle widened to friends of friends and even perfect strangers.  In the last four months, Dan has received hundreds if not thousands of letters.

We've read every one.  In the early months, my parents and I would read them to each other, saving the best to read aloud to Dan.  More recently, he's taken over that duty.  The messages come long and short, silly and serious.  They come in both type-face and crayola.  They come from World War II vets and pre-schoolers and everyone in between.  Some people, many of whom we've never met in real life, write week after week to update Dan on their lives in the hope of providing some amusement.  Those of you out there know who you are, and your efforts are genuinely appreciated.

Entire elementary school classes have written Dan.  These often provide the best laughs, and usually come illustrated, like the letter we got from one boy who wrote at Halloween to wish Dan a speedy recovery, and enclosed a wonderfully rendered picture of a tombstone with the words "R.I.P. Lt. Dan" scrawled on the front.  Dan has had that one on his wall ever since.

Or these other gems from America's schoolchildren  (you can't make this stuff up!):

"I would one day like to join the military, but first I have to
complete elementary school" - Marc

"I saw your picture you look fantastic. I have one annoying brother
that hits me but I don't care. He gets in trouble." - Adyson

"I haven't ever written a letter to someone that I didn't know, but
congratulations. You're the first one!" - Nayelli

"I saw you in the picture and you look awesome just like me. I bet we have the same personality." - Your awesome friend, Luis

And Dan's personal favorite:

"I hear that you won't be going back to being a soldier anymore.  I'm thinking that you probably don't want to go back right?  Because you might die! And we all know that dying isn't fun." - Nelson

Plenty of adults have also shared their warmth and good humor with Dan.  Ms. Carolyn Swavely and her posse of South Carolinian grandmas have kept up a steady flow of letters and cards.  So many, in fact, that if any executives of Hallmark are reading this blog, you should send these ladies a thank-you note -- I think they're single-handedly keeping your audio greeting-card line in business.

Carolyn in particular likes to write letters, many of which we find pretty funny.  Here's one of the best  (Carolyn, I hope you don't mind -- this was just too good not to share!) (click on the letter to see it in larger font if you're having trouble with the text size):

 As you might expect, Dan has also received letters that have truly touched our hearts.  Here's one from a total stranger named Sharon who felt compelled to write:


And lastly, Dan has received letters that amaze and inspire, like this one from the aunt and uncle of one of the medics who saved his life on 18 August:


Family Portrait


The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

A few news stories to pass along:

First, our wonderful family friend Rainy Chastine has worked tirelessly on behalf of Dan since the time of his injury -- organizing fundraisers, corralling volunteers, and starting this very blog.  In this story in Monday's Atlanta Journal Constitution, she received some well-deserved recognition as an "Atlanta Holiday Hero" for her efforts.

On the grimmer side, Dan's battalion and brigade continue to receive national-level press for the casualties they took over the summer and fall.  Articles appeared this week in both USA Today and the New York Times, with the latter noting that 1-17 now holds the dubious honor of having the most men killed in action of any battalion in Afghanistan since the initial U.S. invasion of 2001.

Finally, respected Army Times reporter Sean Naylor published this staggering article today on the state of affairs within Dan's brigade:  Stryker Soldiers Say Commanders Failed Them.  The article speaks for itself, but accurately reflects what Dan's soldiers have been telling him privately in the months since he was medevac'ed out of the Arghandab River Valley.     


Community Support

11Alive, Atlanta's local NBC affiliate, once again spotlighted Dan and the wonderful people of Fayette County, GA who have worked so hard to support him in recent months.  Here's the segment that aired last night:

And here's the story on 11Alive's news site. 


SPC Brendan Marrocco

SPC Brendan Marrocco is an acquaintance of Dan's at Walter Reed.  This video speaks for itself.


A journey of a thousand miles...

Dan has begun the process of learning how to walk again using his prosthetic legs. Regaining this skill is something akin to learning to become an expert skier, and relies upon a similar mix of physical conditioning and technologically advanced gear. At this phase of the process Dan and the technicians in the MATC are more concerned with the latter than the former: the videos below show Dan walking primarily in order to give the technicians a better sense of what changes need to be made in order to better fit the legs to his body size and gait.

It’s a complicated process, as a small change to the length or angle of one leg inevitably necessitates changes to the other. In several of the videos you’ll see Dan catch a foot on the ground as he begins to swing a leg, or the knee of his C-leg refuse to bend due to inputs received from sensors in the foot. Learning how to overcome these kinds of problems through a mix of practice and equipment refinement will take many more months, but here are the first steps:


2-1 Patrols the Arghandab

Eight minutes of interesting video taken by Staff Sgt. Justin Graff on 23 Nov documenting an A Company, 2-1 Infantry patrol in the Arghandab river valley, followed by interviews with several soldiers: 

The video originated here.


Wiis for Warriors

Several of you have asked me about donations you can make to support Dan and other wounded warriors.  I highly recommend the Fisher House and its subsidiary Operation Hero Miles, both of which have been hugely helpful to my family and others in similar circumstances.

If you're interested in making an off-the-beaten-track donation, however, please also check out this great project.  Wii's for Warriors is the brainchild of Air Force Staff Sergeant Dave Flowers, an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technician recently wounded by a landmine in Afghanistan.  For those of you unfamiliar with EOD teams, these are the guys that go out looking to find and eliminate IEDs before they have the chance to kill other service members.  They're true heroes, and probably some of the gutsiest guys on the battlefield.

After losing one leg below the knee and while fighting to save another at Walter Reed, SSgt. Flowers was urged by his physical therapist to use Nintendo's Wii Fit program as part of his rehab regimen.  He got such good results from using the Wii that he and his wife have started their own charity to give them out free to other amputees, including Dan.  Here's a picture of the two of them from earlier today as Dave handed out a Wii to Dan:

For those of you interested, you can make a donation to Wii's for Warriors and get in contact with SSgt. Flowers directly from the project's website.    

In totally unrelated news, a few really great folks have come to visit Walter Reed in recent days to meet with many of the wounded troops.  Here are a couple of pictures with guys who define cool -- Jon Stewart and Bruce Springsteen. 


What Wasn't on TV

Can anyone confirm that Dan appeared on television during President Obama’s speech at West Point on Tuesday night?  Joking, joking…thanks to all of you out there who let him know that you saw him!

Dan and I both wish to thank the faculty and staff at the USMA for being such gracious and generous hosts to us and for allowing us to witness such a momentous event.

A few thoughts on what didn’t appear on television:

The picture above is an admittedly poor quality shot of Dan with some of the cadets he led through West Point’s Cadet Basic Training in the summer of 2006. The young men pictured in this photo—and several young women who aren’t shown—volunteered, like Dan, to attend West Point in the years after 9/11.  Here's my summary of Dan's message to them:

“No matter what the President says here tonight, and no matter your personal feeling about this or any other conflict, as long as American men and women continue to serve in harm’s way, it is your duty and privilege to lead them. I was privileged to lead men in combat; I felt and continue to feel that I had the best job in the world; and my only regret is that I wasn’t able to remain in the field longer with my men. Each and every one of you is lucky to have the honor of the challenge on which you’re about to embark.”

Followed shortly thereafter with “stepping on an IED sucked.”

Over the course of our day on West Point's campus, Dan was approached by hundreds of members of the cadet corps, and got to have some variation of that conversation with most of them.

All of the men and women he spoke with understood that the policy decisions enunciated later that evening by the President would directly affect them in a way that is foreign to most Americans, and in a way that Dan visibly embodies. And virtually all were eager to talk to Dan, hear his story, and thank him for his service. All in all it made for an inspiring trip.

And yes, the media still seem to think that Dan is an interesting guy. Not sure why. Here’s a quick round-up:

NBC Nightly News has a long clip of an interview Dan gave shortly after the President concluded his remarks:

ABC’s Good Morning America included a quick quote from Dan in a piece on their Wednesday morning show (click here for the video):

ABC News’ Jake Tapper blogs about Dan here.

The Seattle Times’ Hal Bernton writes about Dan here.

And lastly, my favorite:  a screen-shot from PBS’ coverage of the speech identifying Dan’s long-lost brother Frank:


Thanksgiving Update

Prior to Dan’s surgery last week the docs told us it was a “minor procedure.”  Everyone in the family thinks he/she speaks M.D. these days, but a little something was lost in translation this time--we understood “minor” to mean “minor,” but it turns out it meant something more akin to “you almost certainly won’t die in surgery, but you’re going to feel like crap afterwards.”  All of which has proven true, and led Dan to have to spend most of the past week back in bed.  By yesterday he was feeling a little better though, and so we eased into what turned out to be great Thanksgiving dinner.

Dan made it to physical therapy for the first time in a week this morning, so here are a couple videos of a MATC workout.  They’re admittedly a little lame, so watch at your own peril.

While flipping through the post-Thanksgiving dinner football games on TV yesterday, our family was a little surprised to see Oprah doing her show from the MATC.  If you want to see a more professional view of the facility, you can check out the show here: Oprah on Location at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
Finally, Dan was invited up to West Point to watch President Obama’s speech on Afghanistan on Tuesday, so we’ll be driving up there early next week.


My Child is an Honor Student at Walter Reed Army Medical Center

My dad came back to D.C. from Peachtree City last week saying that some smart fellow recommended this post’s title as a good bumper sticker for my parents’ car. I thought that was pretty clever.

Today is the three month anniversary of Dan’s “alive day.” True to the bumper sticker suggestion, Dan has been making huge strides (figuratively and literally) in recent days, and is well ahead of his projected rehab schedule. Before I get to any of that, I’d like to take this opportunity to highlight one of the many units that gave us this anniversary, the great men and women of the Air Force’s 55th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron, currently operating out of Kandahar Air Field.  In three months of operations, these folks have flown 1,500 medical evacuation missions, and are a large part of why so many guys like Dan are still alive today.

I previously posted about Dan’s visit with President Obama. We finally got the official pictures back from the photographer, and they didn’t disappoint. In fact, the only negative of the entire day was that one member of the family couldn’t be present to meet the commander-in-chief. I “photoshopped” the missing Berschinski into the picture – see if you can figure out who wasn’t actually there...

Since my last update, Dan began walking short distances fairly effectively on his “shorties,” so the rehab staff at Walter Reed decided to accelerate his program and move him onto his permanent legs. These “C-Legs” (like you, I initially hoped the “C” stood for “cyborg,” but it turns out it’s just a plain old model number), have a microprocessor-controlled knee joint, and have revolutionized mobility for above-the-knee amputees. An explanation of how the C-Leg works and a pretty amazing video can be seen on the manufacturer’s webpage here.

Due to the ill-timed vacation of his compression-shorts tailor (you can’t make this stuff up), Dan hasn’t been able to begin walking on the C-Legs quite yet. He has stood on them and continued the socket fitting process though. Here are a few pictures:

The last bit of news to pass along is that Dan is scheduled to have yet another surgery tomorrow morning, this time to clean up some lingering issues on his stomach. It’s a fairly minor procedure by our current standards, but lest everyone think Dan’s life is all about hobnobbing with politicians and hanging out at the gym, it’s not going to be much fun, so please keep him in your thoughts. We hope to have him back up to full steam by Thanksgiving.




One third of the way through its deployment in the Arghandab Valley, 1-17's 2nd Platoon, Charlie Company (Dan is 2nd Platoon, Bravo Company) has had 11 soldiers killed in action, with many others badly wounded -- a 30+ percent casualty rate.  Last week two more men from 2 Charlie died and two others were injured when their Stryker was attacked by an IED. 

A reporter from NPR was embedded with 1-17 at the time of the attack.  His account of the aftermath and the recovery of the Stryker on the following day, along with pictures and audio, can be found here and here.


Veterans Day Thanks

Thanks to everyone who wrote or called offering Veterans Day well-wishes yesterday!

The community response to Dan's injuries caught the attention of 11Alive News in Atlanta last night.  Click on the "play" button below to see the clip that aired on NBC:


Update 11-9-09

Those of you who read the Tacoma News Tribune article know that Dan jokes that the best way to meet the brass is to get blown up, and this week certainly proved the validity of that observation.

On Tuesday Dan met with former GA Senator and triple amputee Max Cleland. Dan and I have discussed on several occasions how, had he been injured in a similar fashion in any previous war, he not only wouldn’t have survived his initial injuries, but he also wouldn’t have been able to look forward to the quality of life that we’re confident he’ll attain now and in the future. Talking with Mr. Cleland about his experiences after returning from battle in Vietnam really underscored for us the advances made over the last four decades in the not-as-unrelated-as-you-might-think fields of prosthetic technology and national compassion for wounded warriors. Between the outpouring of love and support he’s received from what is now a nation-wide “community” of well-wishers, and the tremendous technological advances made in recent years by scientists funded by the Department of Defense, Dan luckily won’t have to face many of the challenges posed to amputees of Mr. Cleland’s generation. All of which—as Mr. Cleland eloquently stated in an op-ed run in yesterday’s NY Times—isn’t to say that today’s veterans don’t face their own significant challenges upon returning from battle.

On Thursday Dan met with the Hon. John McHugh, the newly appointed Secretary of the Army. Unfortunately the meeting occurred against the backdrop of the unfolding tragedy down at Ft. Hood, and was thus fairly short. I did have a chance to snap this photo:

And to close the week with a bang, on Friday Dan met with President Obama. The first words out of the President’s mouth as he introduced himself were that he had heard from the Walter Reed staff that Dan continued to lead and inspire the other wounded soldiers from the 5th Stryker Brigade in the hospital. Dan replied with his usual nonchalance, “Yes Sir, that’s my job.” Duty, Honor, Country indeed.

The best part of the visit came half an hour after the President left Dan’s hospital room and we thought we were free to get on with the rest of the day. At that point the Secret Service came back into the room to tell us that one of the soldiers from 1-17 who was slated to receive a Purple Heart from the Commander-in-Chief had requested that Dan witness the ceremony. SPC Sean Burke was wounded in his Stryker by an IED while driving back from Combat Outpost Berschinski (yes, Dan has a base named after him in Afghanistan) outside of Kandahar. Now Walter Reed’s docs are doing heroic work to save SPC Burke’s left leg, which was badly injured in the blast. The scene in SPC Burke’s room as President Obama handed out the Purple Heart while Dan looked on was pretty cool. The President was accompanied by an official photographer who promised to distribute all his pictures, so I didn’t take many, but here a couple that give you a sense of how it looked:

Lastly, after finishing up with President Obama, Dan got up on two legs for the first time Friday afternoon. Here are what the legs looked like:

These are what are called “shorties,” meaning that they don’t have knee joints and are six inches or so shorter than the final version Dan will eventually use to walk (meaning, you guessed it, Tallest Berschinski and Best Looking Berschinski are still held by the same owner). As you can see in the picture above, the right leg does have the mechanical joint that will allow Dan relatively smooth motion at the hip once he starts walking. It shouldn’t be much of a surprise to anyone to hear that replicating the three-dimensional motion of a ball-and-socket hip joint is an incredibly complex task. Mike Corcoran, Dan’s prosthetic technician, a two-time Olympian in slalom kayaking, and one of Walter Reed's many unsung heroes, explained to us on Friday that the hip mechanism you see here didn’t exist as recently as two years ago.

Here’s Mike fitting Dan with the legs:

And Dan upright on his own power:

Mike’s purpose in having Dan stand on the shorties is to test the fit of the custom-made sockets that connect the legs to Dan’s body. A socket that feels comfortable when lying down (as when Mike originally fitted Dan for his left socket in the picture that made the front of last week’s WaPo) might cut into Dan’s skin or otherwise impede motion when Dan is vertical. So Mike and Dan will spend several hours together over the coming weeks tweaking the sockets so that they achieve a perfect fit to Dan’s body.



Tacoma News Tribune Article

Dan was featured on the front page of today's Tacoma News Tribune (home paper for Ft. Lewis and the surrounding area outside Seattle) in a pre-Veteran's Day profile.  The article provides a good summation of the events leading up to and following his injury.  The hardcopy version of the paper looks like this:


And the online version can be read here:  Back From the Brink


Thanks to all who came out for Chick-fil-A night!

This blog's crack staff of reporters tell me that last night's "Support our Troops" fundraiser at Chick-fil-A was a smashing success.  Many thanks go out to the staff at Starr's Mill Chick-fil-A for hosting the event, Rainy Chastine and Ric O'Brian for (once again) making the arrangements, and Dan's "other mothers" for all their logistical support. 

I heard that the hyperlinks from one of my last posts threw off some of my technologically challenged readers (you know who you are), so I'm warning you now that I'm trying something new with this one.  I've got a lot of pictures and want to post them all, but in order to conserve space I'm going to post them after the break.  Mom, that means you have to click on the words below that say "Read More" to see the pictures.  Then, after you're done viewing the pictures, you have to click the "back" button on your browser to go back to the blog's main page.  You can do this!


Stars & Stripes

Saturday's Washington Post article featuring Dan was picked up by the Stars & Stripes:

Today's Washington Times ran a story on the Stryker vehicles used by Dan's brigade, quoting multiple soldiers as saying that the vehicles are dangerously unsuited to the local IED threat:  'Kevlar Coffins.'



This is what standing for the first time in two and a half months looks like!  Dan reported back that "it wasn't a big deal," but that smile doesn't lie...

I'll take this opportunity to post some other recent highlights.  First, Dan has had some great visitors in recent days.  The shot below is with GA Senator Johnny Isakson.

This next one is with Peachtree City Scout Troop 201 Committee Chairman Steve Rambeck:

Clowning around...

Mugging with photographers and modeling for the WaPo...

And lastly, a couple more shots of last week's socket fitting as captured in the WaPo article: