Finding Your Local Heroes: Danielle Green, Purple Heart Recipient
Across the nation, kids in fourth grade learn about their state history. In our district, fourth grade is the year of the Famous Hoosier Project, which entails researching, reporting, and dressing up as someone famous from the state of Indiana.
Perhaps we look past the famous authors, actors, and ball players and turn our hearts to those who quietly serve, often sacrificing their very lives to protect us. Today I want to feature someone who should be on the Famous Hoosier list: Danielle Green.
South Side, Chicago, is not an easy place for anyone to grow up. Danielle's father was not in the picture and her mother was addicted to crack cocaine, but she had a grandmother who did her best. At a young age, Danielle decided that she wanted to play basketball at Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. That meant going to a school in North Side, Chicago, which required trains and buses to get to. Danielle was determined to have a better life, though, and made the trip every day; she joined the ROTC and the National Honor Society.
When she was offered a basketball scholarship to Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, Danielle committed on the spot. She knew what she wanted. After a couple of tough years and some injuries, Danielle graduated with her degree in psychology.
At 25, Danielle knew she wanted to serve and protect her country. She joined the United States Army as a military police officer, and while securing a rooftop in Iraq, she was one of the first female U.S. troops injured in that country. Danielle lost her left arm — her dominant arm — to a rocket-propelled grenade.
Upon recovering and returning home, Danielle could have chosen many different paths, but she chose one of service to others. She took a job as a school counselor for a time and then returned to South Bend, working at the Department of Veterans Affairs to help fellow veterans readjust to civilian life. Using their shared experience, she establishes the trust our veterans need.
Danielle received the Pat Tillman Award at the ESPYS in 2015. (Tillman was an American professional football player who left his career in the NFL to enlist in the United States Army after the September 11 attacks. He was killed in action in 2004.) During her speech, she posed a challenge to the audience: “Not all of us are Pat Tillman, but we can all find ways to serve our community. We can all find ways to support the people around us. We can all find a purpose on this earth larger than ourselves.”
In honor of Purple Heart Day and Danielle Green, I challenge each of us to find our purpose and learn to serve the people around us. And perhaps if your child is required to learn about a state hero, you can encourage them to look beyond the pop stars, artists, and authors and find the quiet heroes, those who should be famous for their acts of courage and service. People like Danielle Green.