Memorial Day – Courage, Bravery and Heroism

The Danny Dietz Memorial statue in Littleton’s Berry Park. Photo by Linda Wommack

The Danny Dietz Memorial statue in Littleton’s Berry Park.
Photo by Linda Wommack

A Memorial Day Remembrance of Navy SEAL  Danny Dietz 

By Linda Wommack

Memorial Day is a day to reflect and remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country. For the Dietz family of Littleton, that day came for them on another patriotic holiday – the Fourth of July.

This day of national celebration, a day of unity and a day of national patriotism for all. However, for this Littleton family, the Fourth of July 2005 brought immeasurable sadness. For it was on this day that Dan and Cindy Dietz were notified of the death of their son, Daniel “Danny” Dietz.

Danny Dietz grew up in Littleton. He attended the same grade school and middle school that I did. Three months after his graduation from Littleton’s Heritage High School, Danny Dietz began his lifelong dream to became a Navy SEAL.

At age 24, Danny Dietz was on his second deployment to Afghanistan when he and three other comrades were attacked by the enemy on June 28, 2005. Two of the three would die that day – one was Danny Dietz.

It was therefore quite fitting that on July 4, 2007, hundreds gathered at a small community park in Littleton, just a few short blocks away from the elementary school Danny Dietz attended. The day was all about community, celebration and respect. Family, friends, community members, and local and state representatives attended the celebration and unveiling of the patriotic statue of Danny Dietz, placed in the southwest corner of Littleton’s Berry Park.

I was present when the ceremony began promptly at 11 a.m. Members of the U.S. Navy headed the flag procession toward the stage, an amazing site of protocol and respect. Littleton Mayor Jim Taylor thanked the thousands of people in attendance and explained the flyover was delayed near Telluride. Distinguished speakers, including Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter, Rear Adm. Joseph D. Kernan, U.S. Congressman Tom Tancredo and Medal of Honor Recipient Mike Thornton, all took to the podium to recount the courage, bravery and heroism of Navy SEAL Danny P. Dietz.

The common thread throughout was one of honor and respect not just for a fallen hero, but also for a hero that belongs to an entire community.

“Within every community is the common man with the uncommon desire to lead,” one speaker said.

Fort Logan National Cemetery, established in 1888, is one of two veteran cemeteries in the state. Photo courtesy of Denver Public Library

Fort Logan National Cemetery, established in 1888, is one of two veteran cemeteries in the state. Photo courtesy of Denver Public Library

In his speech, Tancredo praised the character of Danny Dietz: “He performed the highest level of service for our fellow man.” He went on to praise the community, “This statue has kindled hope in this community.”

In the speech given by Rear Adm. Joseph D. Kernan, he said, “Every day should be the Fourth of July. Every day should be Memorial Day. It’s time to stand up for this country, as Danny Dietz did.”

There was a brief pause. Someone with a loud baritone voice yelled “Hoorah!”

The crowd cheered, then clapped and rose to their feet. That action alone spoke to the sentiment of all in attendance. Shortly after that, as if planned, but it wasn’t, the mayor directed the audience to the southwest as the flyover was approaching. Again the crowd was on their feet with cheers and more hand clapping.

Tiffany Bitz, Danny’s sister, was the last to speak. She spoke fondly of her brother, and what this day and this statue meant to her family, and a bit about what Danny would have thought of it, “too much fuss.” Recalling his youth, his life and his dreams, in an obvious emotional voice, she graciously acknowledged the presence of Danny’s widow, Patsy, who flew in for the ceremony, as well as the wives of two soldiers who died with Danny, who were also in attendance from out of state. She also acknowledged the first recipient of the “Danny Dietz Scholarship,” sponsored in part by Heritage High School, where Danny graduated in 1999.

Danny’s sister ended her remarks with personal remembrances of community. She talked of walking to school through Berry Park, be it to Centennial
Academy or Goddard.

“Walking through the park, I wonder ‘what is a hero?’ Today, walking through this park, I see a hero…my hero, my brother,” she said.

The family and dignitaries were then led to the statue and its unveiling. It was quiet, it was solemn. As the cover fell, camera’s flashed. Not a word was said. The group gathered for media photos. Hugs were exchanged, handshakes abounded. The flag softly waved above in a gentle breeze.

Posthumously, Danny Dietz was awarded the Navy Cross, the nation’s second highest military honor.

As I walk in Berry Park or when I drive by, I always think of the sacrifice Daniel “Danny” Dietz made for his country. I am proud that I grew up in the same neighborhood and community that he did.

May God Bless America.

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