The Purple Heart Foundation had the opportunity to interview Dan Hansmeier, a Marine Corps Veteran. He provided us insight on his time and experience in the military as well as what civilian life has been like for him since becoming a veteran.
Can you provide us with a background on yourself?
My name is Daniel Hansmeier and I am 30 years old and am from rural Minnesota.
When did you join the military?
I joined the Marine Corps immediately after I graduated high school in June of 2006. I remember graduating on June 3rd and flying to San Diego, California on June 11th. I had a very short summer break before starting boot camp.
Why did you join?
I wanted to travel the world, meet new people and accomplish things that I never would have been able to do had I not joined. Importantly, the attacks on September 11th, 2001 really put a lot of drive in me to defend this country against something like that happening again; [and as it] turns out that is what I would do.
Could you provide some details on your time in the service? What branch did you serve in?
United States Marine Corps
What was your rank?
I was a Sergeant (E-5)
What were your roles in the service?
Reconnaissance Team Leader/ Recon Marine. Scout Sniper and US Army Airborne Ranger qualified.
Were you deployed during your service? If so, when?
I went on 4 deployments over the period of 8 years that I was active duty in the Marines. My first deployment was called a MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit) which was a fleet of Navy ships that traveled the Indian and Pacific Oceans making stops at Hawaii, Singapore, Australia, Persian Gulf (Bahrain, Dubai, Kuwait) and East Africa. My second and third deployments were to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and my last deployment was another MEU stopping at a lot of the same countries as the first, this time including parts of Europe. Our purposes at these stops was either to train foreign militaries or to do training as a platoon for ex, High Altitude High Opening (HAHO) parachuting exercises in Djibouti. Each deployment was about 7 months long.
What is your favorite memory/story?
My first Afghanistan deployment was in 2010, the bloodiest year of the war and I remember every detail of it. My platoon was in gunfights nearly every day and we racked up almost 400 enemies KIA without a single person in my unit dying, although we did take serious casualties. We expended more ordinance than any other Marine unit in the country that year as well and at the time Lt. General James Mattis (the current Secretary of Defense under the Trump Administration) said that my unit was “the most lethal unit in Afghanistan right now”. Ironically he was quoted saying that on Halloween 2010.
What does being a veteran mean to you?
Being a veteran means that I hold myself to a high standard, the standard instilled in me throughout the arduous and attrition rated training and combat that I went through. It means that I don’t make excuses and that I seek realistic and thorough solutions to everything in my daily life that I encounter. Being a veteran means that society should hold me to a higher standard as well; there are incredibly weak people who love the victim society mentality, I am not that man, nor should veterans be thought of as that.
Are you involved in any veteran communities?
Not in a formal sense, no. However, I do stay in contact with nearly every person in my platoon that I went to Afghanistan with every day through an app on my phone. This is the most important veteran community to me; we keep each other in check.
What have you been doing since leaving the military?
I went straight to college. I like this question because it forces me to think, “what have I done lately?” and to not relish on my time in the Marines as if it were the only important time in my life. Well, I have been in college, I’m studying biology and will graduate Summa Cum Laude in May of next year and will pursue a career in health care. Every day is a win, because I have four limbs (thankfully), a sound mind and more grit than anyone I know.
Advice for those looking to join?
The military has a whole spectrum of specialties; you don’t have to do what I did, although I wouldn’t really be enthusiastic about doing something different. If you want to join, be ready to get humbled, be ready to lose, and be ready for defeat because those things are necessary events to be exposed to in order to learn how you will react in the worst of scenarios and if you have the ability to grow from them, if you don’t think you do then don’t bother joining. The military is a place that selects volunteers and places them in a job that is best fitting for them, it may take a couple of years in the military before one figures this out. You’ll know once you find what it is you are supposed to be doing because you will be good at it and give it your undivided attention because your learn that your life or someone else’s life probably depends on it.
Anything else you want to share?
I would do all 8 years again, I had a great time and was with incredible guys who really understood their roles as men and leaders amidst chaotic scenarios in training and in combat.
Dan’s journey both in and outside of the military is inspiring. He excelled as a Marine due to his strong work ethic coupled with his passion and dedication to our country. His success has only continued since becoming a veteran, making and reaching new goals every day.
There are not enough words to justify how grateful we, at the Purple Heart Foundation, are for Dan and all the other men and women who serve and served this country. We are committed to honoring all of our heroes, and it is our goal to help make the transition from the battlefield to the home front a smooth one for all of our men and women in uniform who defend our freedom. Show your support for them by making a one-time or monthly pledge to make sure they continue to receive the support and benefits they deserve.