Purple Star Veterans and Families was created in memory of
Purple Heart Recipient and OEF Combat Veteran of Two Tours In Afghanistan with the Army 10th Mountain Division
1979 – 2009
Danny passed away in the late evening of Wednesday July 15th 2009 from injuries sustained in an excessive speed related motorcycle accident. His funeral service was held on Thursday July 23rd 2009 at 12:30pm at Hendricks Chapel on the Syracuse University campus and was Buried in Valley Cemetery, with Military Honors immediately following the service. Danny is survived by his wife, two children, mother and father
Many of the concepts and content on this website were co-created by Danny while he was transitioning home from his military service and while attending Syracuse University to obtain his Masters in Clinical Social Work.
In the fall of 2003 Sgt Danny Facto was stationed at Shkin Fire Base, a mud fenced Alamo also known as “The Evilest Place” in a Time Magazine article. Shkin is in the Afghan border region approximately three miles from Pakistan. Sgt. Facto was interviewed on a special segment of Peter Jennings’ “World News Tonight“ when General Abizaid the commander of troops in Afghanistan visited the forward fire base for a first hand assessment of the battlefield.
In early 2004 CNN was preparing a news segment with Paula Zann and Dr. Sanjay Gupta featuring Dr. Charles Hoge’s groundbreaking research on the prevalence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with returning military from Afghanistan. Fortunately, through a personal introduction to the CNN producer, Chris Cajilian by Dr. Jonathan Shay, author and documentarian of “Achilles in Vietnam“and “Odysseus In America“, Danny was selected for the interview to show a recently returning Combat Veteran seeking help for PTSD within the military health care system.
The following Video has both the Peter Jennings Interview mentioned above as well as the Paula Zann/Dr. Sanjay Gupta news segments.
The Creation of Purple Star
Unfortunately, Danny did not survive his full transition to civilian life due to a fatal high speed related motorcycle accident on July 15, 2009. On the first anniversary of Danny’s passing, his father was talking with a Blue Star Mother, Melanie Reagan, who suggested that he would now be a Gold Star Father. Gold Star Families have this designation because they have lost a family member who was actively serving in the military. After further conversation a question was posed “if there is an organization to honor the families of active duty service members, (Blue Star) and an organization to honor the families of the fallen during military service (Gold Star), why is there not similar “Star” organization to honor Veterans and their families who are going through homecoming and transition? As important, a star organization to honor and support the families of Veterans who are not surviving homecoming?”
From this conversation it was determined that in Danny’s memory the name would be changed from Veteransandfamilies.org to Purple Star Veterans (purplestarveterans.org). A second website is under development for the families of Veterans in transition and for the families who are not surviving transition from accidents, drugs, alcohol and suicide.
The Veterans Transition Map and Action Plan
The Transition Map and Action Plan concept and design were originally developed from a series of late night and early morning conversations between Danny and his father shortly after his return home from his second tour in Afghanistan. On many nights, Danny was unable to sleep and would put his wife and children to bed and lock up his house so that he could guard their home from perpetrators from the vantage point of a ditch on the edge of their property. On many nights, Danny would call his father and they would talk until he could go back inside to sleep.
The idea of a self-help map to orient Veterans into the important areas of life began to take form during these conversation and a vision of training large networks of Veteran peer mentors to deliver this model began to materialize. Together, they began a deeper exploration into many areas of personal, professional, transformational and spiritual development and these foundational conversations became part of the inspiration for Danny to focus his efforts on obtaining his Masters in Clinical Social Work (MCSW) from Syracuse University. Upon graduation, Danny’s vision was to work directly with Veterans both inside and outside of the VA. From 2004 – 2009, the ideas, content, processes and exercises he and his father researched were formulated and integrated into what is now The Veterans Transition Map and Action Plan, available for download under the “Tools” link and on most of the side-bars of this website.
Unfortunately, Danny’s passing would prevent him from realizing his vision personally but his work and efforts are foundational to the guiding mission of Purple Star. On the day of Danny’s passing he had accepted the honor of being Syracuse University’s Veterans Liaison. His role would have been to assist new Veterans as they acclimated to life on and off campus. This would have been his next step toward his career goal of being an advocate and counselor for Veterans. His difficulties in adjusting to college life after service would have served many Veterans coming into the Syracuse campus.
As a final note to our history. Danny’s passing from a high-speed motorcycle accident four years after leaving the military was ultimately deemed “Service Connected” due to the perseverance of a dedicated VA case worker who was mentoring Danny for a position within the Syracuse VA system.
National Petition to The President of The United States
In honor of Danny’s vision and passion for helping Veterans who suffer from their wartime experiences, a national petition was created to rally Veterans and families members together to change the way the military prepares service men and women for their transition into civilian life. In July of 2012 to memorialize Danny’s passing, the national petition was launched on Change.org.