Dan's Aquathlon: Support a Wounded Soldier

Lt. Dan Cnossen heading to T1 after coming out of the water.
Imagine being a rock star athlete in the prime of your physical fitness and limitless potential. Then imagine losing both of your legs and suddenly finding yourself as a double amputee. Would you have the strength to pick yourself up and face this new life challenge head on?

Not only does Navy Seal hero Lt. Dan Cnossen have the strength to overcome such an obstacle, but he's doing so without any complaints. In September, while Cnossen was serving in Afghanistan, a land mine exploded and wounded both his legs from the knees down. He is now recovering at the National Medical Center in Bethseda, Maryland.

"If anyone can handle something like this, it's Dan," said Maryann Lekas, one of Cnossen's longtime friends.

Lekas recently visited Cnossen and was amazed--but not surprised--by his attitude and demeanor.

"Any normal human being could not help but complain with all that was going on," Lekas said. "Yet there was not one complaint. Dan kept talking about how amazing it is to relearn how to function without his legs. He's so curious and intrigued by the human body. He's looking at it like this incredible new challenge."

Lekas and several of Cnossen's friends have come together to support their wounded friend by hosting "Dan's Aquathlon," a two-part fundraising event this Saturday, October 17.

The event will start with an aquathlon at 9 a.m. in front of Tower 30 at La Jolla Shores in San Diego. There will be a 500-meter ocean swim (wetsuit optional) followed by a two-lap, 5K beach run from Tower 30 to the pier. Registration is $25. Participants can complete the entire aquathlon or participate in just one portion of the event.

Lekas, who is co-organizing the event with Erin Timmons, said the two chose an aquathlon because Cnossen would want an event everybody could come out and enjoy.

"We wanted to make it simple, accessible and fun so that everyone can participate," Lekas said. "Trained or untrained, this is something everyone can be part of, and we made it so the distances aren't intimidating."

Several community organizations will be coming out to support the event including the Triathlon Club of San Diego, Breakaway Training, Vavi Sport and Social Club, local military and the Naval Academy Alumni Association.

"This is of course in honor of Dan," Lekas said. "But when something like this hits so close to home--someone you know and love--you cannot help but realize that war is very real, so we want to honor all the wounded soldiers."

Part two of the event will continue at 6:30 p.m. at Prospect Bar and Lounge in La Jolla, where attendees can enjoy music, bid on silent auction items, and share drinks to celebrate Cnossen's spirit, determination and recovery.

Lekas said the night event reflects Cnossen's "Work hard, play hard" mentality.

"He doesn't view things as just a race or just exercise or something you have to get done before your day starts," Lekas said. "He would want an all day event where after a hard day of great workouts, you could go out and socialize."

All proceeds from both events will directly benefit Cnossen and his long-term recovery.

"As his friends, we're more bummed out that he's out of the game and in the hospital for awhile," Lekas said. "But when he's off the tubes and eating solid food again and doesn't need medical attention, just watch out. He's Dan. He's gonna take it on. He's gonna kill it."

Cnossen was recently awarded a Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his service. To follow his progress and rehabilitation or to make a donation, visit http://www.dancnossen.org.

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