“Your past never forgets you.” – Dan Blakeley

The first thing that struck me about Dan is that he’s incredibly easy to talk to. Some special operations guys have a reputation for being a little standoffish or having a larger-than-life ego, not Dan. Yet, he endured some of the most demanding military training there is to become a member of the 2nd Battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment, part of the US Special Operations Forces (SOF). Dan deployed six times in six years to multiple war zones in support of the Global War on Terror. He’s fought in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

Naturally ambitious, Blakeley joined the Army at the age of 17, right out of high school after graduating a year early. He went straight through basic training, followed by airborne school and the grueling Ranger pipeline, ending up at the 2nd Battalion, where he served from 2006 to 2012, eventually earning the rank of Staff Seargent.

Then, as happens to so many of us, life threw him a curveball; his was during the Army’s Advanced Leader’s course while he was on a group run. Dan started feeling a sharp pain in his chest. Instead of going away, it only got worse. In short order, he found himself in the back of the fall-out van and, later, on his way to the ER. Turns out it wasn’t just indigestion from some bad burritos the night before; the doctors found that Blakeley had a hole in his heart.

There is no scenario where that is going to be good news for anyone, especially a warfighter.

After exiting the Army, he earned a double Master’s at Appalachian State University and went on to found United Valor, an organization that helps veterans by telling their stories in a way that fosters healing and understanding, ultimately aiding their transition back into civilian life. His book is an extension of their efforts.

The Twenty-Year War is available on Amazon and at twentyyearwar.com.  Proceeds from sales on twentyyearwar.com go to veteran service organizations that are supported by the authors.


Dan is shown here with his weapon and an American flag.
Dan on one of his multiple deployments, is shown here, weapon at the ready, holding an American flag. Image provided by Dan Blakeley

Hearing how Dan and his fellow authors took the stories of 71 post-9/11 combat veterans and presented them in their own words reminded me of one of the best books I have ever read, The Good War by Studs Terkel. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1985 for General Non-Fiction and was required reading as part of my course of study as an Army cadet. Briefly, the author interviewed over 100 people worldwide and told their stories of the days immediately before, during, and after World War II. It’s an oral history of the greatest generation. Post 9/11 veterans, in their own way, can be considered to be our nation’s second “greatest generation.”