I don’t really know what to say about today’s interview. Dan is a classmate of mine from the Naval Academy. I didn’t know him really well while I was there, but I knew of him. This interview really makes me wish I would have had the chance to get to know him better while we were in school together. We recorded this interview, and there were some technical difficulties and we got started a bit late, and I had another meeting right after it. It was actually a video conference that I have with my men’s group each week. So I hung up with Dan and went straight into this men’s group meeting. And we always start off these calls with a round the room check-in - each of the seven guys in my group takes five minutes to share what’s going on in their life. And I just knew I’d be picked to go first. And I was. And I was just coming from my conversation with Dan and the whole weight of our conversation hit me. And I got pretty emotional.
Dan made an enormous sacrifice in the service of our country. He paid a price for his choosing to keep our country safe. And he faced an incomprehensible recovery from that sacrifice - one in which he faced uncertainty, loss, and obstacles that it’s really hard for me to get my head around. And he approached this with a moment-by-moment presence that really shows the man he is. He came back from this loss to win the gold medal at the Paralympics - he made history in doing so. And through it all he maintains himself with such humility, such candor, and such honesty - it really made me feel humbled and honored to have him on the show, and to count him as a classmate. He has been hesitant to stand in the spotlight, to speak publicly about his experience. If you - like me - are touched by his story as I was, I hope that you reach out and let him know. I think he is an incredible human being with an inspiring message, and I cannot wait to see what is ahead for him.
At the end of our conversation, I ask Dan about organizations he would recommend listeners support. Each of them are listed in the show notes for this episode at BeyondTheUniform.org
- I hope that you’ll check them out and consider supporting them.
Cnossen is currently a graduate student at Harvard University, working towards a Master of Public Administration at the John F. Kennedy School of Government as well as a Master of Theological Studies at the Divinity School. In the 2018 at the Winter Paralympics , Dan created history in his second Paralympic appearance after claiming a gold medal in the men's 7.5km sitting biathlon event. In doing so he became the first American male and the second American ever to claim a gold medal in a biathlon event in either the Olympics or Paralympics.
Dan grew up on a fifth-generation family farm in Kansas. He attended the Naval Academy as part of the illustrious class of 2002, after which he served in the Navy as a SEAL. While serving as a platoon commander for SEAL Team One in Afghanistan in September 2009, Dan stepped on an IED (improvised explosive device) and was wounded in the explosion. The accident caused Cnossen to lose both his legs just above the knee. As you will hear in this interview, in both his recovery and achievements since then, Dan continues to be an inspiration to the military and non-military community.