Vol 6 No. 6 - November 2, 2005

Call to duty a dream come true
By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

He has wanted to be a soldier since he was a little kid and he has his orders for Iraq.

Daniel Lathrop, known as Danny to his father, West Manatee Fire and Rescue Deputy Fire Marshall Kurt Lathrop, will be leaving for Iraq in early December.

After 14 weeks of basic training at Fort Benning, Ga., he was assigned to the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team. On Oct. 13, it became the 506th Regimental Combat Team with a distinguished legacy in World War II and Vietnam.

Lathrop was trained as a SAW (squad automatic weapon) gunner, an expert in the use of a lightweight machine gun. He has a long history of weaponry, starting with his youth.

Daniel Lathrop has received his orders to go to Iraq.

"I was a paintball expert," said the 20-year-old graduate of Bayshore High School.

When asked how he feels about his upcoming assignment, he was excited.

"I love it," he said "It's been a lifelong dream."

As a member of the 506th, he has already mastered the team's slogan, "Currahee!" A Cherokee word, currahee means stand alone and it is the same slogan used by the team since its inception on July 1, 1942.

Lathrop was on 24-hour duty when the team learned of its new name, and he quickly embraced the concept when he learned of the 506th's legacy. It was during a ceremony at Fort Campbell, Ky.

"They had former members of the 506th from World War II and Vietnam," he said. "They passed the team's colors to us."

Danny has his own ideas about what youngsters out of high school should do.

"I think everyone should serve their country for at least two years," he said. "If you get out of high school and don't have a career in mind, you should give the military a try."

A graduate of JROTC at Bayshore High School, he has nothing but praise for what he learned.

"It builds leadership," he said.

While embarking as a PFC, Danny has aspirations of leadership in his new career, although not as a commissioned officer. He said he would like to become a warrant officer, a rank that is between an enlisted soldier and an officer. He also said after his first 12-month tour of duty in Iraq, he would definitely go again.

The reality of his assignment hit home after he enlisted in the Army. Two of his high school friends, Christopher Cobb and Scott Dougherty, died in Iraq while serving in the Marines.

"Scottie died the day before I went to basic training," he said.

Danny's dad, Kurt, said they consulted with a training officer before deciding whether to tell his son about Dougherty's death.

"He told us it would be better not to," said Kurt. "He said Danny would be going through basic training and it would be better for him to give it his full attention."

Danny's enthusiasm for the Army is contagious, Kurt said.

"His older brother, Steven, works for Publix, but he is in the final stages of enlisting," he said. "He wants to become a medic."

Danny also has a younger sister, Kyna, 19, who works for Publix. She wants to become an emergency medical technician.

Kurt said Danny's assignment to Iraq brings mixed emotions. He is concerned for his son's safety, but he supports him.

"He is going over there to help preserve our opportunity to sit here right now," he said. "I was very proud of him when he earned his wings, which I pinned on him. We couldn't be happier for him."

Kurt said his three children grew up in a home where his parents are community oriented. Kurt's wife works with seeing eye dogs. He said he is proud of all his children. As for Danny, he trusts the training that will carry him through his new assignment.

"I have come to see the loyalty in his instructors to make sure he is at the top," he said. "We know in our hearts that he has gotten the best training possible."

Danny feels the same way, and he is grateful for the support he has gotten in his endeavor.

"I want to give special thanks to my wife, family and close friends who supported me," he said. "I also thank the veterans who fought and the ones who fell before me."

He also looks forward to being a part of the team.

"What we do in the military is not about making headlines," he said. "It's about brotherhood and bringing each other home."


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