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Holten: There is no greater burden

"There is no greater burden than losing a child," said Dan Dietz Sr. while seated across from me on an outdoor patio at The Platte River Bar & Grill in Littleton, Colo.

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"There is no greater burden than losing a child," said Dan Dietz Sr. while seated across from me on an outdoor patio at The Platte River Bar & Grill in Littleton, Colo.

None of us who have children will, for even a millisecond, argue that point.

But losing a child for Dan Dietz Sr. might be a little different than for other parents because his son's death has been so visibly outlined in a book and in the popular movie "Lone Survivor."

As you may or may not know, both the book and movie are based upon an event that took place in Afghanistan in 2007. It is about an unsuccessful United States Navy SEAL four-man mission to track down and capture Taliban leader Ahmad Shah.

Shah was a target because he was responsible for killing more than 20 U.S. Marines, plus villagers and refugees who were aiding American forces.

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The four-man team was inserted into the Hindu Kush region of Afghanistan, where they trekked through the mountains and, in the midst of doing so, began to experience communications problems. Soon they were discovered by an elderly shepherd and two teenage goat herders and, at that point had to decide whether or not to kill the herders to protect themselves from being discovered.

They elected to let the herders go and immediately begin work to extract themselves, but were unsuccessful.

Soon they were greatly outnumbered by Taliban forces and all but one was killed, including communications specialist Danny Dietz Jr., the son of Dan Dietz Sr.

This column is not about Dietz's son or the mission itself. It is about a father who is so proud of and still so lonesome for his son.

We visited for a couple of hours at the restaurant, located on Danny Dietz Jr. Drive in Littleton, and talked about everything you can imagine, including his son Danny, his younger son, his former wife, his daughter Tiffany who he says is so much like Danny that they could have been twins, and a lot about life in general, and the challenges it presents.

The elder Dietz, who grew up in rural Nebraska, is an impressive but also haunted figure.

He too served in a military special forces capacity and had been inserted into hot spots all over the world. When he speaks, he does so with a lot of authority and makes sure that you get his point.

We talked about how, once you've experienced putting your life on the line a few times, that the little inconsequential things in life don't much matter anymore; and about how much he loves this country, and sacrificed part of his own life and his son's life for it.

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He wore a faded military cap and aviator sunglasses. His hair was semi-long and a beard covered his chiseled facial features for a specific purpose. He was told by the Central Intelligence Agency that the Taliban had discovered identification on his son's body and he, Dietz Sr., had, for whatever reason, been added to a hit list.

When he makes a point, his eyes bare down on you and drives that point deep into your soul. And you can't help but see the weight he carries on his back. Yet, when he talks about his son's death, he does so firmly and, like a rock, without any hint of breaking down.

"I have to be a good example," he says, "for Danny."

Most of his life is now centered on the Danny Dietz Leadership and Training Foundation, whose mission is to enrich the lives of young adults through strenuous mental and physical activities designed to create U.S. citizens who are engaged and contributing members of their communities. After our discussion, he was headed to Colorado Springs, Colo., to meet with a group of former NFL players.

"Through this event, I have discovered our most important mission in life," he said.

"What's that?" I asked.

"To inspire," he said.

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Holten
Kevin Holten

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