It has been 10 years since Pine City High School graduate and U.S. Marine Corps Master Sergeant Daniel L. Fedder died in the line of duty in Afghanistan, but his memory still shines bright for those who knew him and honor his legacy.
Master Sergeant Fedder was a 16-year veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He was the recipient of many military awards, including the Purple Heart, two Navy-Marine Corps Commendation Medals and a Joint Service Achievement Medal. He was also posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal with combat distinguishing device for heroic actions.
“Dan was a mentor and a leader,” said Chief Warrant Officer John Hermann, operations officer, 1st EOD Company. “Everyone had admiration for him and his dedication to his community and the Marine Corps.”
Fedder was an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) specialist, and his life was cut short at age 34 when he was killed by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan on Aug. 27, 2010.
Fedder’s mother, Jackie McKellar was told that on Aug. 27, Fedder was disarming one explosive device when a second one was set off. Fedder was also under small-arms fire at the time of the explosion.
“He had disabled one and there was a secondary blast,” Jackie said. “There’s nothing you can say. It’s what it is.”
Fedder left behind a wife, Diana, and two children – Danielle and Storm – from a previous marriage. He also left behind an extended network of family and friends in Pine City who mourned his loss.
Memories of courage
Fedder’s deployment to Helmund province in Afghanistan was Fedder’s third combat deployment. After joining the Marines in 1994 he deployed to Iraq in 2004 and 2006. Fedder also deployed with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit in 2007, which served in the western Pacific, Persian Gulf and Africa.
Fedder’s courage and leadership contributed to the work of Regimental Combat Team 2 and the British 40 commando’s area of operations within Helmand province, Afghanistan. His bravery was on routine display as he responded to, rendered safe and disposed of more than 25 improvised explosive devices throughout the area of operations for two separate units.
In 2012, the Pine City Post Office was renamed in honor of Fedder. At the ceremony commemorating the naming, Fedder’s wife Diana said that one memorable example of Fedder’s determination and experience came when he saved the 40th Commandos of the British Royal Marines from an attack on their camp.
“When Dan first arrived at camp ... with the 40th Commandos, he knew something was wrong,” Diana said. “After a careful search of where the commandos were camped out, Dan located and rendered safe several 40 pound IEDs which were all wired together. This selfless act saved the 40th Commandos from total loss. With that said, the men of the 40th then named Dan, ‘Hurt Locker Dan.’”
Looking back, looking forward
Jackie said that family and friends got together at the American Legion at the end of August this year to share memories of Dan including her husband Bob, her son Dominick and daughter-in-law Paula. Like so many memorials of her son, it was bittersweet.
“This 10 year anniversary thing, it just kind of hit me,” Jackie said. “You have your moments. Everybody who has had a loss has that hole. Some days are better than others. Some days you’re just going to remember the good things, and it’s OK. Then you remember the good things, and it’s not OK. That hole is there, and you’re going to always feel it. We just deal with it the best we can from day to day. I just try to consider how Danny would want me to handle it.”
Jackie has focused her own service over the years on the work of the Blue Star Moms, who she said have been very supportive.
“I was doing all of the military things, but I couldn’t keep up – it was too much,” Jackie said. “So I wanted to hang in with the one I thought I was going to be able to benefit, be beneficial. We’ve been able to help with a lot of different things that they’ve done. [We] always like to say, ‘We’re small, but we’re mighty.’”
She said the family is doing well, including Daniel’s children Danielle and Storm – now ages 20 and 15 – and she recently reconnected with an old friend of Daniel’s from the Marines.
Jackie said she knows her son would want them to remember him – his sense of humor and his passion for life – but he would also want them all to move on and make the most of their lives without him.
“We still miss him,” she said. “We want to keep the memory alive – we are very proud – but I always think Danny would say, ‘It’s time. It’s enough. Don’t forget me, but, it’s enough.”