Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world. But, the Marines don't have that problem.
Ronald Reagan, President of the United States; 1985
Daniel Lee Gilyeat was born with the heart of a warrior. Born on March 6th, 1972 in Shawnee Mission. Kansas, he grew up in Kansas City, Kansas. He grew up poor, in a house where he says he could "hear the wind blowing and see debris coming through the walls". They rarely had running water or electricity. He came from a family of divorce. After the age of eight he was raised with his two brothers, one older and one younger, by his single mom.
His mom worked hard to take care of the family but that left a lot of time for Danny and his brothers to make up their own rules. School was hard for him. He attended Wyandotte High School for only a few months. He was bored and lacked direction so he dropped out. He became what he called, a "stereotypical dropout", working at a fast food place flipping burgers. He knew that his current job was a dead end but failure was not an option.
At the age of seventeen he got the first glimpse of his warrior's heart when he found Karate. It was the spark that set him on his future path of finding his place in life. It gave him discipline and a sense of accomplishment that hadn't been there before but that still wasn't enough for him. He decided he wanted to finish High School so he went to an Indian Job Corps Training School in Montana.
Dan has American Indian heritage, with the blood of Pawnee and Delaware ancestors flowing through his veins. Studying and working in the beauty and serenity of the Rocky Mountains was a spiritual awakening for him. There, in Montana, he grew to know himself and his heritage better. He was there for a year and a half and earned his High School Diploma and a Trade Certificate in Heavy Equipment Mechanics. He excelled at everything he tried there and his leadership skills came to the surface. He was put in charge of everything he got involved in, always climbing to the top of every challenge.
He returned to Kansas City, Kansas and tried to find work. He still had the feeling that he was destined to be a Warrior. He worked for a while but he warrior heart was calling him and he decided to join the Military. It's what he had always wanted to do. He wanted to test himself to see if he was physically and mentally tough enough to be one of this Nation's elite warriors,
A United States Marine.
In March of 1995 he enlisted in the Marines. Dan stood tall and proud on those yellow foot prints in San Diego, California on that day and he says he "felt that his heart would burst with pride". It was the beginning of the ultimate, most life changing, most disciplined, way of life he could imagine. He wanted to test his mettle to be the Warrior he had always wanted to be.
The first day of boot camp he says in the blink of an eye something exploded inside him and he remembered saying "here we go, what the hell did I get myself into?" The Drill Instructors did their jobs and did them well. Dan thought at times his instructors were trying to kill him. He decided he would rather die than fail and give them the satisfaction. Failure was not an option.
His first 4 years of active duty moved fast. He started out as a Mechanic and then developed a second MOS as a Machine Gunner. He was stationed in Okinawa, Japan. He loved the military life but toward the end of his tour he had started a family. He decided to leave the military after 4 years of active duty and return home to try and stabilize his family's lives.
He moved his family back to Kansas where he grew up but the pull of the warrior heart was still nagging at him. He decided to join an active Reserve unit not far from his home. Then came the life defining moment for America, and for Dan with the Terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001.
Dan's Warrior heart snapped to attention. He thought of all the Americans who were now afraid of another attack. He wanted his children to know that their Father would protect and defend them. He also wanted America to know that there were men and women who would give their lives to protect the very freedoms that were now under attack. He decided to go back on Active Duty.
He did his first tour of duty in Iraq in 2003. The warrior heart was now fully awake. He volunteered for a second tour and went back to Iraq in 2005. That warrior heart was almost stopped on July 3rd, 2005, on a dusty road in Iraq when he and his crew drove over an anti tank mine with their Humvee. SSgt. Daniel Gilyeat lost his left leg in the blast. He laid on the ground for thirty minutes and told jokes to his crew to help them come out of the daze of the explosion until help arrived.
He died twice, he was told, on the Helicopter ride back to the military medical facilities. He went for more than an hour before he got any treatment for the loss of his limb or his huge loss of blood. His warrior heart wouldn't stop beating and he used that warrior mentality to beat back death. He survived. 27 days after surgery he was, to the amazement of his doctors and nurses, using his prosthetic leg and was walking again. Two and a half months later he had stopped taking all medication and he was doing things he was told he would never be able to do again with a prosthetic leg.
It took two prosthetic legs but he tried and succeeded in doing Martial Arts again. The warrior heart was beating strong and he also was attempting and succeeding at water skiing, snow skiing, Tia Chi, climbing stairs, lifting engines and riding a Harley. Dan was now doing more with one leg that most people with two legs, ever do.
His marriage suffered as he recuperated and he and his wife separated and later divorced. His warrior heart took a big hit but he had to stay strong for his children. He had five kids to support and failure was not an option.
He worked with wounded vets while he was in the military hospital in Texas. He counseled and consoled them and their families and taught them how to survive. He continues that work today as a volunteer for many, Wounded Warrior type, organizations. His warrior heart was set on helping others.
He worked out of his home as an auto mechanic and took odd jobs to supplement his Military pension. He went to school for for a while to become a Massage Therapist. Unfortunately he couldn't finish his training because unforeseen circumstances sapped his GI Bill money and he couldn't afford repairs on his small home where he an four of his children lived. It was difficult for him to negotiate the narrow doorways in a wheelchair but he made do with what he had and didn't complain.
He came to the attention of Meredith Iler, who works for a charity called "Helping A Hero". They build homes for wounded veterans and considered building one for Dan and his family, but as Dan's situation unfolded she decided his story would be a perfect fit for the ABC's, Extreme Makeover - Home Edition, TV show. She was right.
On, October 1st, 2007, SSgt. Daniel Lee Giyleat found producers from the ABC show sitting in his tiny cramped living room. A month later he and his family were being whisked away to Universal Studios in sunny Southern California. His ugly duckling house was torn down and rose again as a beautiful 2,850 square foot swan. The rest is television history. That one Extreme Home Makeover show has inspired people all over the world who had similar stories and needed hope and inspiration.
The young Marine hero and single Father was given a magnificent gift from Extreme Makeover and the Helping A Hero Foundation. A four bedroom, dream home that has wide doorways and a peaceful feel. Dan's story has become the most popular episode, ever, of all episodes for the ABC program. The Helping A Hero Foundation took up a collection and paid off the mortgage on Dan's first house.
These miracles have allowed Dan unprecedented time to spend with his kids and allowed him to work with handicapped children and veterans. In his spare time he builds hot rods and loves sitting down with his children and drawing. He is after all an artist. He is instilling that love of creativity in his children. He keeps large amounts of art supplies in his home and encourages all of his children to live life creatively and to the fullest.
He is now using that Warrior's Heart to take on a new challenge. He wants to serve the people of Kansas. He is throwing his barracks cover (hat) into the District 3 race for next years congressional elections. He believes this country is still under attack., only this time from within. He believes our freedoms are being stripped away by the out of control spending by this Congress and Senate and the current Administration. The call of the warrior's heart is stirring again.
He will run as a Republican in the August 2010 Republican Primary. The Party faithful are giving him little chance of winning. Too green around the gills they are saying. Not enough experience to which SSgt. Gilyeat mentions: "we have sent experienced people to Washington D.C. throughout the years and where has this gotten us." His opponent is certainly not listening to his constituents while he serves under this Administration.
His opponent voted yes to the Stimulus, He voted yes to Cap and Trade and he favors the Public Health option on Health Care. His offices both in Kansas and Washington D.C. have been continually flooded with phone calls, faxes and letters expressing the peoples opposition to these big spending projects. His inbox is always full with e-mails from constituents who want him to take a stand against higher spending in the Congress. The requests have fallen on a mind closed to the people he represents.
SSgt. Daniel Gilyeat was born with a Warrior's Heart and he intends to use his tenacity and grit to bring about real change for Kansans. He is a conservative voice with conservative values who believes in the promises contained in the Constitution of the United States of America. He wants to continue serving his country. He may be the underdog next year but you've got to remember one thing. Dan has a warrior's heart and for him failure is not an option.