Maria (Patsy) Dietz is the widow of Operation Redwings hero Danny Dietz, killed in action during Operation Redwings in 2005. The daughter of a SEAL Team member and a Navy veteran herself, Maria and Danny met in 2002 and had three wonderful years together before tragedy separated them.
Today, Patsy is committed to keeping Danny’s memory alive through various organizations and fundraisers. This e-mail interview was conducted in January 2012. I’d like to thank Maria for taking the time to answer the following questions about a true American hero….U.S. Navy SEAL Danny Dietz.
LoneSurvivor.net: Where are you from originally?
Patsy Dietz: I am originally from Spain. My father who is an Active duty SEAL and my mother met in Spain. At the age of 18, after high school, I decided to join the Navy and went into Boot camp in 2000.
LSN: When and how did you and Danny meet?
PD: In June 2002 my mother was invited to a BBQ going away party of a (SEAL) Team guy from my dads command. My mother invited me to come to the BBQ, so after I had finished my shift at work I headed over there with my best friend. As soon as I came in my mother insisted I meet this one Team guy who really impressed her. So she introduced me to Danny and we went our separate ways at the party. After a few hours, I noticed him away from the party scene watching a boxing match on TV alone in the living room…and decided to sit next to him…. after a few minutes of chatting and joking around…we connected immediately. After that it was history…. we were together everyday that he wasn’t training.
LSN: What were your first impressions of him and what drew you to him?
PD: My first impression was how quiet and mysterious he was compared to his peers who were loud and party goers….then after dating for a while I realized that he was that way when he first met someone…he needed to trust you and warm up to you before he showed who Danny really was. He loved doing pranks, and making others laugh on his behalf, which is something we had in common. Friends always enjoyed inviting us to parties and dinners because there was always a good laugh at our cost. What really drew me was his heart. He was tough at his job and very hard on himself to always excel at everything he did…..but was able to balance that with his compassion for others and always helping his friends when needed.
LSN: When did you and Danny get married?
PD: We got married March 14th 2003. I was 21years old and he was 22 years old. We were young…but because of the line of work we were in we were really mature. He was a Team guy since he was 17 years old and I was in the Navy since 18…so you are forced to mature quickly. I remember the night…a few month before his first deployment, he looked at me and said…“what do you think if we got married before I left on deployment”….at first I thought he was joking like usual….but he was serious. He said he wanted to make sure that if something ever did happen to him on that deployment that I was his wife and we were together by union. So we went into the Virginia Beach Court house and got married. Fortunately, nothing happened on that deployment…..it would take another 2 years before that reality came true.
LSN: What was life like for you as a SEAL wife?
PD: You are never really prepared to be a SEAL wife…there is no manual or guidelines that prepares you for that life. I can say that you appreciate a lot more of the little things in life and the seconds, minutes, and hours you have with your loved one. You learn quickly that you are different than most people…that your life takes another meaning of a “Normal” life. You take the role of “The backbone” of the home front…while your husband takes the role of “The Warrior”. You learn to put your country, your husband first….and then yourself. It definitely takes a strong woman and one with unique qualities to carry on this lifestyle and to be part of one of the most AMAZING communities out there. Even after the outcome that happened on June 28th…I would do it all over again.
LDN: Did you ever know much about what Danny was doing in the SEALs when he was away?
PD: I understood my place…I never wanted to know anything that he was not comfortable telling me…that was his job…and I respected that…and understood there was no need for me to know or speak about it. Like every couple in this community you have your own codes and language…that gave you clues of maybe where they were or if they would be out of contact with you for a while. That being said….Danny and I had a really close relationship…and he was a great husband that never wanted to worry me if it was not necessary…so he always called me after missions…or if he was in land….on June 27th, before he went on the tragic mission…we had spoken for 30 minutes or so…about things back home..projects that needed to be done when he got back home and the dogs…all along I had no idea he was going out that night…all he said “I’ll try and call you soon”…that was code…he was going out to do something….so I knew not to expect a call for a few days…but never had a clue of what….until I saw in the news a helicopter had gone down in Afghanistan with SEALs in it.
LSN: What were some of the favorite things you and Danny liked to do together?
PD: When Danny was off work…he was off work…he enjoyed doing what any man of the house liked…he enjoyed doing projects around the house, building things, spending time with his dogs, and watching movies. We both had a lot in common, we always enjoyed going for runs, working out, and sitting at home watching shows or playing video games. Ever Sunday we would go to Barnes & Noble and sit there for hours reading different books…Danny was extremely smart and loved reading about things that interested him.
LSN: When was the last time you saw and spoke to Danny?
PD: The last time I saw him was April 16th, 2005. This is the day he had packed all his personal belongings that he was taking on deployment and hopped in the car to take him on base to catch the bus that would take him to the military airport. I remember sitting in the car on base….waiting for the bus to arrive…and when it did he got his bag and came to my side of the window and gave me a kiss…as tears rolled down… he kissed me and said: “ It’s only 3 months, I have done longer deployments…I will be home soon…I am going over there to do something for my country” and that was the last time…I saw his beautiful smile…
LSN: How did you first hear about Operation Redwings and what happened?
PD: I was lucky to have my father in the Teams…so my father heard when everything was happening, before the world heard of it. He knew Danny was one of the guys on the ground…but was able to come home to my mother with a straight face to not give away any clues of what was going on at work on the 28th. On the 29th, I put on the news on TV and saw that a helicopter had gone down in Afghanistan with SEALs on board…I soon called my father at home and asked him if he heard anything of Danny and if he could go to work to check….all along he knew what had happened…He then notified the command that I had found out that something had happened and they needed to come and notify me.
LSN: What are your thoughts about the movie? Is it something you support or would you rather it not be made?
PD: I think the director doing the movie has done good work with other films and hopefully will not make the movie too “Hollywood” and try to keep it factual rather than fiction. These were men that deserve that and did already extraordinary things on that day……their story doesn’t need the touch of “Hollywood” in the script. What I think they should get better at is getting the family members more involved with the movie in order to get more of their support…to bring out the true characters of each guy. I think they could do better with their communication skills. Me personally, all the information that I have heard about the movie is either online, blogs or on the LoneSurvivor.net website…which is a little frustrating…when one of the main characters of the movie is your husband.
LSN: Have you spoken with Peter Berg? If so, what are your thoughts about him directing the film?
PD: I have spoken 2 years ago with Peter Berg and was promised by him that he would come out to Virginia Beach to speak to me and some of Danny’s closest Teammates to get a feeling of Danny as a Team guy…Since then, I have not heard anything directly from his staff or him. All I know is that the script is written.
LSN: Do you have any word on who might portray Danny? If not, do you have any preferences on which you’d like to see play him?
PD: I believe it should be someone that is not famous…and someone that has no Hollywood image attached to them. Danny was down to earth…humble…and someone with a unique personality that only family members and Teammates were able to see and enjoy.
LSN: You have a foundation I believe, tell everyone about that and what other ways you try to keep Danny’s memory alive?
PD: The Dietz Family in Colorado has been very active keeping Danny’s memory alive in Colorado….I have focused keeping his memory alive in the Teams…this is what Danny trained so hard to be part off…and ultimately died for…After his death…I became involved with different foundations in the community and attending as a guest speaker for different events. I wanted to make sure his spirit stayed alive in the Teams and be able to give back to the community he loved.
I am actively involved with other surviving spouses in the community and try to always be there for other wives that need the guidance to travel one of the hardest roads in one’s life…the loss of your lovedone. In 2010, with the help of a patriotic American who read Lone Survivor and fell in love with Danny’s determination and commitment to his men on the battlefield…we started a fundraiser called Danny Dietz Memorial Team Roping in Texas every year. 100% of the proceeds go to the NAVY SEAL FOUNDATION on behalf of Danny to provide Active Duty SEAL children a scholarship to go to college, while Daddy goes out to fight bad guys and make a difference in the world just like Danny did.
I have a Facebook memorial page set up for Danny called : Danny Dietz Memorial Page ( Public Figure) and there I post the updates of the fundraiser and other stories that Teammates shares of him.
LSN: I’m sure you’ve got plenty of special memories about Danny. Are there maybe one or two memories that stand out the most to you looking back at your life together?
PD: Everything he did in his life, he gave it 110%. He was always laughing and full of energy….Everytime I looked into his eyes…I knew everything would be just fine….after his death…I remember I felt scared…..because I knew he was no longer there….to protect me…..but that quickly changed…because i knew I could not let the enemy win…they might have taken him physically…but he still lives through those he left behind….I am a better person because of him… because of June 28th….i feel like he is living through me…I want to have kids one day…the ones he didn’t get the chance to have….and grow old….and do everything I set myself to do….110%.