“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.