“Freedom Isn’t Free”

On the morning of September 11th, 2001, Pat and Don Shanower were on their way to Montana. They heard the news of the attacks on the radio, but since there were 25,000 people working at the Pentagon, they didn’t think anything could happen to their son Chief of Naval Operations Commander Dan Shanower. But later that night they heard the news, that their son was one of the 55 military personnel killed in the building.

“I was shocked by it,” said Don. “We were not expecting to see or hear anything of this sort of thing happening.”

Shanower was born in Naperville in 1961. He attended Naperville Central High School where he played on the varsity soccer team. His parents say he was very outgoing.

After graduating from Carroll College with a degree in Political Science, he went on to the Navy Aviation Officer School. He spent the next two decades working his way up the military ladder, ending his career at the Pentagon. When the rest of Naperville heard about the news they rallied around the Shanowers.

“It was overwhelming the kind of spirit that was shown after 9/11,” said Pat.

Commander Shanower received the Defense Meritorious Service Award, two Navy Commendation Medals, the Navy Achievement Medal, and the Purple Heart. Naperville Central also recognized him as an Outstanding Alumni in 2002. And next month, the Navy will be dedicating a conference room in his name in San Diego. But all Shanower’s success will never bring closure to his parents.

“There is no such thing as closure when you’ve lost a child,” said Pat. “I think it is wonderful that the community remembers and honors those who were lost, but for parents there isn’t any closure.”

On October 1st, 2001, Shanower was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. His parents hope no parents ever have to go through what they went through.

“We empathize with everyone who has lost someone in the military,” said Pat. “All those in Iraq and Afghanistan deserve the same kind of attention as our son. We would pray that there wouldn’t be more gold stars in windows.”

In 1997, Shanower wrote an essay about the loss of his shipmates in 1987. That essay was titled “Freedom Isn’t Free” and was published in the United States Naval Institute Proceedings.


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