You will never be forgotten Cpl Dane Freedman
Click here to go to our blog where you can find resources/information on depression, PTSD, suicide, and our two memorial funds we have set up in honor of Cpl Freedman.
Thank you for visiting www.danefreedman.com!!
This page has been created in memory of Cpl Dane Freedman, who unfortunately succumbed to his battle with PTSD and depression on December 13, 2013.
Please read on to learn his story…
Dane was a vivacious soul who always made sure everyone around him was laughing. He was determined, energetic, and a leader at heart. He wanted to make sure everyone fit in, and was the kind of guy who would literally give you the shirt off his back. At the tender age of 17, we traveled to our local MEPS and watched as he officially swore in to the United States Marine Corps. Following his high school graduation in June of 2007, he remained very disciplined and trained heavily for boot camp in Parris Island that August. Our hearts filled with pride as we watched him graduate and officially became a US Marine. He was stationed with 1/3 Bravo Co. Weapons Platoon in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. He was a skilled machine gunner and served two tours; one in Iraq (2008) and one in Afghanistan (2010). We knew it wouldn’t be an easy transition for him to return to civilian life, because the camaraderie and bond he had formed between his brothers was something nothing would ever compare to.
In June of 2011, Dane was honorably discharged from the Marines, feeling inspired and excited to venture off to Penn State University that Fall in hopes of obtaining a college degree. We noticed a difference in him almost immediately. Not only were there psychological symptoms, but physical ailments as well, such as constant shoulder and knee pain. At this point, he had actually undergone a knee surgery while in Hawaii. The psychological symptoms began with hypervigilance, as he was constantly scanning his environment, looking at everyone in the room, and refusing to sit with his back towards the door. We initially passed this off as “normal” during his transition home from war. Being in a war zone for months on end, he was trained to be ready to fight for his life at the drop of a hat. He also experienced sleep disturbances - night terrors that caused him to scream, kick, and wake up drenched in a sweaty, confused state. The huge population of students at Penn State University most likely contributed to his eventual increase in panic attacks and racing thoughts. It was a lot to be around this many people Hesitant at first, he reached out to the local VA clinic near State College, and the medication began. Zoloft and Xanax, they wrote him a script and sent him on his way. He avoided large crowds, and didn’t feel safe going anywhere without his appropriate form of protection. He began to verbally express his disappointment with the world and the state we are living in. In the wake of multiple losses during and after combat, his mental health struggles became too much to deal with while pursuing his degree, and he decided to take a medical leave of absence in December of 2011. This was a heartbreaking blow for him and he was devastated to once again leave some of his Marine brothers behind (he knew his roommates from the Marines).
As a family, we had faith that our local VA would have the resources and tools to help him, both psychologically and physically. We were very appreciative that Dane was open to receiving help, we understand that this is unfortunately not the case for a lot of veterans. In April of 2012, he was misdiagnosed with Bipolar Disorder by a doctor at the Lebanon VA Hospital. He was administered Lithium, Prozac, Klonopin, Xanax, and Seroquel. These are very powerful, addicting, mind altering pharmaceutical drugs!! Seroquel even contains a “Black Box” warning, meaning it has shown evidence of causing suicidal thoughts and actions. As a result of taking over 21 pills every day at the age of 25, he lost thirty two pounds and developed impotence. He self-medicated with cannabis (a safer, healthier alternative in our opinion) to gain a sense of appetite and a calm mind. As a result of this, the VA canceled a major surgery placed him into a substance abuse program for 21 days. We felt so helpless, watching him wither away and slowly lose all personality he once had.
It was at this point Dane’s mom, Donnamarie felt the need to try something else. We have always been a huge dog family, so she decided to purchase a German Shepherd puppy for him who he ended up naming “Lager”. The bond was rocky at first due to the inevitable stress that came along with raising a puppy, but eventually they were inseparable. It was almost like Lager filled this hole inside Dane that nobody else was able to fill. He provided him with unconditional love, began to teach him how to trust again, and gave him a sense of purpose that he no longer felt on his own. Overall, Lager gave him hope and brought that beautiful smile back to his face.
Dane’s ongoing “therapy” at the VA hospital consisted of seeing his psychiatrist once every 6 weeks for a 20 minute session, only to monitor medication. Appointments with counselors were often cancelled last minute, and counselors randomly changing during the development of therapeutic relationships was common. It is hard to connect and establish a safe space for therapy when the counselor is different each time you go. It was obvious that the progress he was making with Lager benefitted him greater than the pharmaceutical drugs he was prescribed by his doctor. As a therapeutic team, we along with his psychologist, psychiatrist, and case worker decided that we will implement a “Suicide Prevention Plan” in April of 2013. This plan listed three emergency contacts who would be reached out to for any reason. We found out following Dane’s death that he actually canceled the last three of his appointments at the VA and none of the emergency contacts were called or notified in any way. I would think that it would be a major red flag if someone on your “Suicide Prevention Plan” is consistently canceling appointments.
Unfortunately, tragedy struck when Lager was just 14 months old. The dog that Dane had just created a bond with and put his all into, had died suddenly from a heart attack right in his arms. He was so fragile already, this absolutely devastated him. As a family, we knew this was a major crisis. We encouraged him to see his therapist and open up about his feelings surrounding the loss of his dog and how he would cope with it. Like many people with depression, Dane was good at wearing a mask. He was dishonest with us in the following weeks and told us he was attending his counseling appointments when he wasn’t. He was in so much pain, and we believe losing Lager was the final traumatic event he was able to go through. Just twenty days after losing Lager, Dane ended his life.
We believe that the harmful side effects from the pharmaceuticals along with the lack of talk therapy he desperately needed to receive contributed to his suicide. Since his death, our family has not only raised awareness about the overmedication of veterans, but also the benefits of medical cannabis and animal therapy (dogs in particular) in the management of PTSD symptoms. We believe veterans should utilize any and all alternative therapies available to them such as medical cannabis and animal therapy.
We are determined to create a purpose following this tragedy, and goal of Cpl. Dane Freedman Foundation allows us to do just that. Through community outreach and educational partnerships, our mission is to 1.) inform the community, especially family members of veterans about issues affecting our returning military members such as PTSD and suicide 2.) lesson the stigma attached to mental health disorders such as PTSD by normalizing the conversations surrounding them 3.) encourage veterans to reach out to local, state, and federal resources in order to receive help to begin improving their quality of life and 4.) place German Shepherd puppies with eligible veterans as a stepping stone to canine therapy in memory of Dane and his German Shepherd Lager (Dane’s Dogs for Vets).
We have started two funds in honor of Dane: 1) CPL Dane M. D. Freedman Suicide Awareness Scholarship Fund which aims to grant financial aid to individuals struggling in school with either learning issues or mental health issues and looking to further their education; and 2) Cpl Dane Freedman Foundation (Dane's Dogs for Vets), a foundation in memory of Cpl Dane Freedman that will donate 8 week old German Shepherd puppies to veterans coping with PTSD and deliver them free of charge.
We are pleased to report we have matched over SIXTEEN puppies with struggling veterans in need, from all around the country. This Summer, we have had two fundraisers that raised over $1,000 towards donation of puppies. In July, we placed three puppies with Veterans from Arkansas and Wisconsin, and had the amazing opportunity to be there in person for two of the placements! These are the rewarding and lifechanging things we can do as we continue to keep Danes memory alive. Huge thank you to all our donors and to our breeder in Jonesboro Arkansas, Kay Dale!
Thank you for taking to time to visit this page.
- Born September 13, 1988
- Marine, Son, Brother, Friend, Hero
- Served in the USMC as a Machine Gunner from 2007-2011
-Attended Penn State Main Campus
- Avid outdoorsman
- loved hiking, camping, anything pertaining to guns, playing the guitar, being surrounded by the great outdoors, spending time with his family and playing with his beloved dogs
- Sadly left us on December 13, 2013
Cpl Dane Freedman
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The MWAA is a state-wide non-profit corporation established June 2012 which focuses on education for prevention, early intervention, scientific research and cures of mental health problems. We encourage everyone to participate in a Mental Health First Aid certification class to learn invaluable, life-saving intervention skills.
July 10th, 2017: Andy Saft & Mike Black of the Central Pennsylvania Corvette Club present a donation to Dane's Dogs for Vets in the amount of $13,000.00!! Andy's incredible fundraising efforts during this event went above and beyond anything we ever could have imagined. We are so appreciative that your club chose our cause for your annual fundraiser this year. Thank you!
Cpl Dane Freedman with his service dog, Lager.