Second Chance Iraq Veteran Lost His Marine Brother to Suicide, Hit Rock Bottom, Now Fights to Help Others

VETERANS’ COURT: ‘Taking Care of Our Brothers and Sisters and Our Sons and Daughters’

Former Marine Dan Hanson says veterans diversion programs like the one launched in Washington County are critical to help veterans who have stumbled after returning home from combat.

by Shawn Hogendorf
Patch, Jan. 31, 2012

Dan Hanson and two of his brothers joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 2004. They were sent off on an intense deployment to Iraq where their unit lost 35 guys—including one to suicide.

“We came back and didn’t really talk about it,” said Hanson, now a veterans advocate and member of the Lake Elmo Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Program. “We kept moving forward and got ready for the next deployment.”

Washington County Attorney Pete Orput, right, said cases like Iraq veteran and former U.S. Marine Dan Hanson's are the reason why Veterans Court is necessary.

They went on their next deployment and when Hanson got out of the Marine Corps in 2007, his brother, a fellow Marine, killed himself. One of Hanson’s good buddies followed suit.

“I was at the point where I just shut everything off,” Hanson said. “I dove into drugs and alcohol pretty deep, got in trouble with the law, spent some time in and out of jail and eventually tried killing myself.”

His story is what Veterans Court is all about, Washington County Attorney Pete Orput said. The new Veterans’ Program “is designed to take care of—in the right way—our brothers and sisters and our sons and daughters.”

Hanson said he ended up at the St. Cloud VA where “nobody really reached out a helping hand, but that’s not a negative, because I didn’t want help at the time.”

Eventually, Hanson found himself back in the Hastings jail for another DUI just days before he was supposed to pick up his child for a trip to Wisconsin Dells.

“I got down on my knees and said, ‘God, I can’t do this any more. Either kill me or use me,’” Hanson said.

Read the rest of this story:

Read Dan Hansen’s statement to members of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee:

Iraq War veteran Daniel Hanson appeared at a hearing on war veterans’ mental health care. He said in his testimony that he spent his disability check on “booze and strip clubs,” and that he might have received help earlier for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) if his disability pay had been contingent on his getting treatment for drug and alcohol abuse.

Watch video of Dan Hansen’s testimony at House Veterans Affairs Committee:


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