[UPDATE] Corporal Dan: "I wouldn’t be where I am today without the Semper Fi Fund”
Originally posted September 2016; updated February 2019
At 7 a.m. on September 11, 2001, Dan Lasko was in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, being sworn in as a Marine.
Less than two hours later, American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, followed minutes later by United Airlines Flight 175 crashing into the South Tower. About an hour later and less than 100 miles away, United Airlines Flight 93 crashed into a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania.
“After I got done swearing in, I was supposed to get on a plane to Parris Island,” Dan recalls. “The recruiter had to come pick me up in Harrisburg and take me home, because all the planes were grounded across the country. I was home for another four or five days while the military tried to figure out how to get the recruits to their respective training areas.”
It was a remarkable beginning to a remarkable military career that has taken Dan to Afghanistan, where he lost a leg … to Boston, where he ran the Marathon in 2016 and will be running again in 2019 … and to Los Angeles, where he’s been featured in a national television commercial.
“I was injured in Afghanistan on April 24, 2004,” Dan says. “I was only in country for about three or four weeks when the vehicle I was in struck two roadside improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which resulted in me losing my left leg below the knee.”
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without the Semper Fi Fund,” Dan adds. “It’s been 15 years since my injury, and they’re still with me, making sure I have everything I need and making sure me and my family are comfortable. That means the most to me. When they call and check up on me, they ask about my family. I’m a family guy, that’s something I really love."
“Once the explosions went off, it was slow motion, like what you see in the movies,” Dan recalls. “Boom! And then everything sped back up again. I tried to get up, but I couldn’t. I looked down and my leg was just mangled. It was pretty brutal. They flew me back to Kandahar, and from there to Germany, cleaned me up a little bit, and then from Germany to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.”
Dan recalls that representatives of the Semper Fi Fund were among the very first people to greet him in Bethesda.
“The ladies were all wearing their red shirts and said, ‘If we can do anything for you, let us know.’ Right then and there I knew that I’d be well taken care of. My fiancée came up to visit me from Penn State, and they took care of her and made sure she had a place to stay. They let me focus on my recovery, and anything else beyond that they took care of for me.”
A few years after being injured, Dan became one of the original members of Team Semper Fi. “In 2007, I was on the original team. I started out just doing triathlons. They paid for your registration fee, they paid for all your equipment, you had everything you needed to compete in these races.”
Dan ran several marathons over the years – and in 2016 ran the Boston Marathon for the first time, completing the course in 4:37:44. The 2019 Boston Marathon will be Dan’s seventh with Team Semper Fi.
“While running, especially long distances, I like to think of things or people that motivate me to keep me going,” he says. “This can include my wife Jess and my two boys, Luke and Ben – I like to be a good role model for them. I also think of other service members who are severely injured. By running and wearing the colors of the Semper Fi Fund, I hope to raise awareness for my fellow injured brothers who are unable to run.”
In addition to pursuing his passion for sports, Dan had the opportunity to be involved in a Pedigree dog food commercial in 2015.
“They had a casting call and they were looking for an amputee war veteran,” Dan continued, “so I applied, had several Skype interviews and I guess I nailed the job. I flew out to Los Angeles for a week to film it. It’s a national commercial. I did this in April 2015 and it’s still running now both in the U.S. and abroad!”
“There’s also a four-minute long version that’s called ‘By My Side,’ ” Dan adds. “It’s about what we learn from dogs – not just from being injured, but in general, about how dogs help us out in life. Shooting the commercial was a great opportunity and a really cool experience.
In the last few years, Dan’s been working on a variety of projects, including developing a 3D-printed swimming fin (in conjunction with Northwell Health) that attaches to a prosthetic leg to help with propulsion in the water.
“I’ve also traveled to Japan representing the U.S. in baseball as part of the World Physically Challenged Baseball Tournament held every four years, playing first base and catcher. We competed against Japan, Puerto Rico, Taiwan, and South Korea.”
In addition to being very active in his sons’ sports, coaching both basketball and football, Dan and his family foster and rescue Labrador Retrievers.
“We now have a chocolate rescue named Remi, a yellow Amish farm dog rescue Maizey, and our black service dog Wally. Whatever opportunities come, I try to take advantage of them.