Dan Smee might look like your average guy next door, but upon a closer look, there's nothing remotely average about him. A combat medic whose resilience and inner strength have helped him overcome major health issues and put a positive spin on his year-long deployment to Iraq, Dan is excited about his first book hitting the stands.
Born and raised in California, Dan was the first person in his family to join the military. Always a "natural daredevil" as a kid, he joined the Army as a medic in 1983 and ended his time in service in 1987. Then, after September 11, 2001, he joined the National Guard and was deployed to Iraq in March, 2004.
Dan had several run-ins with IEDs (improvised explosive devices) during his stay in Iraq, the most harrowing being at point blank range. Though Dan didn't have any visible wounds, he was far from being unscathed by the incident. He started having headaches, nightmares, ringing in the ears, blurry eyes, and trouble sleeping. These conditions, compounded by the absence of the once-familiar military structure, started taking a heavy toll on his civilian lifestyle. He turned to drinking and shut himself off from the world.
Finally, Dan decided to seek medical help and was diagnosed with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). "Once I got into the clinics and started seeing practitioners and professional people for treatment, I began to deal with the PTSD and cut out alcohol on my own," says Dan. He continues to receive physical therapy for his neck and shoulders at the polytrauma clinic and sees an audiologist for his hearing and speech. He's been given a hearing aid and is back in school, studying philosophy, as part of the disabled students' program.
Out of his desire to help other veterans, Dan wrote a book titled "Totally American," which presents a unique approach to achieving success through optimism and resiliency. He even started Holy Moly Press, his own publication company.
Dan heard about the Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) from some recuperating soldiers and was moved by the logo. "It's a fellow soldier helping another person in the military. That's what I really feel a calling to do," says Dan. "I've got to help the other guys still out there struggling. It's tough. I know what they're going through."
Dan knows from personal experience the transition from military to civilian life is fraught with difficulties. "When I was in Iraq, I felt overwhelmed with pride for my country. After that, it was like a vacuum. You kind of lose purpose and direction on what you're going to do next. And having injuries only compounds it," he notes. Dan feels by being a part of WWP, he will be able to effectively communicate with other veterans and help them find the support they need to get accustomed to civilian life.
Reconnecting with other veterans through WWP has not only helped Dan regain a sense of purpose, it has reinforced his values of integrity, honor, and optimism. "It's the connection with the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans that really propels me forward. That's where the cure to a lot of problems is," states Dan.