Rare breed. That's an overused term, but it applies to Dan because he was indeed a true rarity. We tend to categorize men as either "lovers" or "fighters," but Dan was both - simultaneously. Half of his persona was a fierce and dedicated warrior who seemed absolutely fearless. And the other half of him was a caring, loving gentleman, who could eerily sense someone's distress, and then feel duty bound to help however and whenever he could. He did not switch between two personalities - both were always present, driving his every action. It was a rare and awesome combination.
Daniel Patrick Riordan was born to Rick and Jeanine Riordan on February, 17, 1983, in Fort Worth, Texas. He had a twin brother, Nick and older sister, Suzanne. When he was five years old, the family moved to St. Louis, Missouri where Dan got involved in the Boy Scouts, played baseball and soccer, developed a keen love for the outdoors, and dreamed of one day becoming a fighter pilot in our nation's military. His favorite pastimes included his vacations to Table Rock Lake and Lake Lanier where he loved days filled with boating, knee boarding, and most importantly, hanging out with his family.
Dan attended St. John Vianney High School and earned both the Gold Circle and Marianist Awards for his impressive level of involvement. He was involved in Photo Club, Year Book Club, plays and musicals, the Letterman's Club, Varsity Cross Country, Varsity Track, and Varsity Football. Dan became very close to his coaches, teachers, and school administrators, and he kept in touch with many of them after graduation.
After high school, Dan attended Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau, MO. Although he was almost 14 years removed from his childhood in Texas, it was still common to see Dan around Southeast's campus in Wrangler jeans, a pearl snap shirt, and a cowboy hat. It was this attire that earned him the nickname Cowboy Dan. During his time at Southeast Dan began to pursue his calling in the US Military via the Air Force's ROTC program and earned many awards. In addition to his schooling and ROTC responsibilities, he also worked for the Department of Public Safety and the Jackson Sheriff's Department, and he spent his summers working with horses on The Night Winds Farm. It was during this busy collegiate time that Dan met Tiffany, his soul mate.
As graduation approached, Dan decided to switch from "Blue to Green" and be commissioned into the United States Army. Although Dan's life-long dream was to be an Air Force pilot, he was unable to obtain a pilot slot due to less than perfect eyesight. Instead of pursuing what Dan described as "a boring desk job," he jumped at the opportunity for a career in the Army, which would be much more action packed and fulfilling. The U.S. Army happily accepted Dan into their ranks and Cowboy Dan became Lt. Dan.
Dan began his military career in the Infantry at Ft. Benning, Georgia, but eventually moved to a hybrid cavalry company that combined two tank platoons and two infantry platoons. Lt. Dan, now a tank commander in "America's First Team," joined Blue Platoon, D Company (the Demons), 2nd Cavalry Regiment, 8th Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division out of Ft. Hood, Texas. After taking on a new platoon and being baptized by fire, Dan and the rest of Demon Company were deployed to Camp Taji, Iraq in October 2006. While on a 15-month tour, Dan and his unit were heavily utilized in Operation Iraqi Freedom. As Dan put it in one of his emails, "Demon Company is to be the tip of the spear to pave the way for our mission." Dan believed in his mission. While at home on leave in February 2007, he consistently reassured his family that our country's - and his company's - military efforts were truly bringing empowerment and freedom to the men, women and children of Iraq.
Dan and his unit fought in several key campaigns during OIF II, including numerous intense firefights. In spite of covering a large territory where they were always outnumbered, they pressed the offensive with courage and determination, and accomplished all of their objectives. It was easy to find Dan, since he was always out on the "point" directing his platoon. Dan took his leadership responsibilities literally. As he put it, "How can I order my men forward if I'm not willing to go first?" He escaped many close calls, including numerous IED strikes, with relatively minor wounds, burns, and concussions. But on June 23, 2007, a massive IED explosion proved to be one too many - Dan, three of his brave troops, and his Iraqi interpreter, Eagle, were killed.
Although Dan's life was much too short, he left a lasting impression on an amazing number of people. What you don't learn by reading this brief summary of Dan's life is how incredibly selfless, caring, faith-filled, genuine, brave, and loyal he was. You would have a difficult time finding a man on this earth who is more concerned with the well-being of others than was Dan. He dearly loved his family, his friends, and his country and we all miss him immensely.
We love you Dan. You are our Hero.
Sit tall in the saddle,
Remember to live,
(- from Dan's favorite song & mantra
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