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    Posted May 12, 2008 by
    Johnson City, Tennessee
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Salute to troops

    Amputee Vet Planning Trip Across America...


    Daniel McConnell thought nothing of his country's request to relocate to Afghanistan...in fact he welcomed the challenge and the adventure.  Unfortunately, his all-expenses-paid tour of Afghanistan ended early when the Apache he was piloting crashed in the barren landscape.  Through a miracle, he escaped with his life.  However, he did not come home unscathed.  He lost his right hand below the elbow and sustained a traumatic brain injury among other injuries. 


    The one thing he's never lost is his passion for life.  After several months at BAMC in San Antonio, Daniel returned to Tennessee where he is now in medical school at ETSU.  Effects of the his brain injury and the obstacles presented by being an amputee increase the difficulty of medical school, but have not held him back.  He continues to embrace life and has become an inspiration to others. 


    A little more than two years after his return to the states, his country is calling him again but in a slightly different way.  It's calling him to explore the countryside and meet the people he sacrificed so much for.  Year one of medical school is rapidly coming to a close and the summer break is to be used to 'set yourself apart' from other med students.







    Daniel decided when he heard that, that he would set himself apart...and not by doing research like everyone else.  He decided that since he dedicated eleven and a half years to this great country (and even lost body parts for it), he wanted to see it and meet his fellow Americans.



    He's planning to make a big circle around the country...starting in Tennessee driving up to Maine, over to Oregon, down California, and then across to Key West.  He will be driving (and living in) his old '84 Suburban affectionately known as the 'Pinto Bean' with only the company of his furry, four-legged co-pilot named Rocky.  He's planning to stay off the beaten path and see as much as he can with plans to write a book about his adventures. 






    He is planning to hit the open road towards the end of May.  (Unfortunately, when he originally budgeted, gas was $2.15/gallon and now it's rapidly approaching $4.00/gallon...we're hoping he won't have to cut his trip short.)   But he is looking for suggestions for the book.  What would you like to read about?  What part of American culture do you think has been missed by mainstream media?  Do you know of any 'must-stop' destinations?   






    You'll be able to follow his trip on his blog: danielsbigtrip.blogspot.com.  He won't be posting the juicy stories since they'll be reserved for the book, but he'll try to post updates along the way...so get out your maps and stick pins to track his progress!   





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