Daniel Standage

  • Full Name: Daniel Standage
  • Birth Date: November 11
  • Place of Birth: Mesa, AZ
  • State of Residence: Arizona
  • Years of Service: 1991-2001
  • Branch of Military: Marines
  • Please Specify:┬áDivision Force Service Support Group (FSSG)
  • Rank: Sergeant/E5

Dan Standage was born in Mesa, Arizona on 11 November. He is the youngest child of five and the second person in his family to graduate high school. He is also the only person in his family to graduate from college or serve in the military.

His father attended high school, but never graduated and his mother has an eighth grade education. Growing up, Dan’s parents never talked about education and he never felt that college was even an option. He along with his brother and sisters worked for their father in his auto repair shop after school, answering phones, cleaning the work bays, and turning wrenches. The work gave his family more household income, a strong work ethic, kept them out of trouble, and provided some allowance for individual expenses, but the experience did nothing for them socially.

Dan struggled throughout junior and high school, taking summer school to pass the eighth grade, and vocational training to make up for shortcomings in his freshman and sophomore years. His parents divorced within the first few weeks of the seventh grade, and his already small social network crumbled. Starting his junior year, he found some teachers who taught differently and it was the little things in his life that began making the biggest difference. Having to make up for the two previous years nearly burned him out from school. Because his support networks were non-existent and he did not have a strong connection with his parents at the time, he decided to join the Marine Corps after graduation and leave Arizona at the age of 17.

He was a natural at computers, but because he spent so much time working for his father, his ASVAB test scores were significantly unbalanced, and favored mechanical tasks. He enlisted as a logistician and served in Okinawa, Japan, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Navy Annex, Washington DC, and Quantico, Virginia. He served a total of ten years with some of the finest men and women, incorporating the best leadership traits in his personal style and learning from the worst. Shortly after leaving the island of Okinawa, he started getting severe headaches. By the end of his career he had lost and regained his eyesight twice, due to high cerebral-spinal fluid buildup in his head. The third time he lost his eyesight, he never recovered and it was later determined that he had a reaction to the vaccination that he received on Okinawa for Japanese Encephalitis. The doctor who finally discovered what was causing the headaches and vision loss shares the same name as his youngest son, Eric. It was one person in his life who made a significant difference and improved his quality of life. Experiences like this caused him to be proactive in the service of others, by getting involved and effecting change, rather than sitting idly by.

In poor health, he left the Marine Corps the same day that terrorists were crashing in to buildings. His wife at the time was in the Pentagon on the day of the attacks and within a year, was going through a divorce and relocating to Arizona with his two young sons. He spent two years trying to figure out what he was going to do with his life, and in July 2004, attended blind rehabilitation training and discovered that helping other veterans would be his life’s calling. Dan used vocational rehabilitation to pursue his education, as he turned down Montgomery GI Bill Benefits in boot camp. He started college at Central Arizona College in January 2005 and was re-married in August that same year. He moved to Tucson at the end of the year and started classes at Pima Community College in January 2006. He applied to The University of Arizona three times and was finally accepted in the fall of 2007. An advisor in the College of Education took care of the details; knowing that transportation was an issue for him and used the phone and email as an alternative to meeting face-to-face.

The significance of these events in his life to this point caused him to get involved and make change. He began looking for ways to improve his surroundings, in his community, and in his home. He was determined to not repeat bad history, but perpetuate the good programs and services by investing his time in them. Things like taking leadership roles within the blinded veteran community and advocating for student veterans, who were too ashamed to ask for help, became very important parts of his life.

Dan’s VA vocational rehabilitation counselor introduced him to Learning Ally (formerly Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic (RFB&D)) before he started school in 2005. She told him to maintain a membership there and it would quickly become his best friend. He has continued to use RFB&D for college textbooks and personal reading; something that wasn’t important in his house growing up, but is now significant. He found some formats of books to be unreadable through the optical character recognition (OCR) process or the amount and types of words to be confusing. The real voices of the readers in the audiobooks made a dramatic difference for him in many of his classes. For instance, he took an upper-division Chinese history course as a substitute for another course. The text-to-speech engine on his computer could not pronounce many of the names of people, places, and things and he began getting very confused. He ordered and downloaded the book, and was able to catch back up and pass the class. Dan now listens to audiobooks during his free time and helps others find reading through listening.

As an advocate for student veterans, many return from military service with various types of trauma, in addition to post-traumatic stress. He has been the liaison for several veterans seeking academic accommodations for their disabilities, including referrals to Learning Ally, VA healthcare, VA education, and vocational rehabilitation, just to name a few. He continues to serve those who served and considers his service beyond the military as his social medicine. It has always been the little things in his life that have made the biggest difference and believes the human element has been the hallmark trait of his success.