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Retired Lt. Col. John Spencer Daniel dies at 82

John Spencer Daniel, a veteran of the Vietnam War and a lieutenant colonel in the Army who founded the Ranger training program at the University of Tennessee, died earlier this month after complications from seizures. He was 82.

Mr. Daniel, who was born April 23, 1932, in Clarksville, Tenn., received a long list of military commendations from his 27 years of service, including the Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, two Purple Hearts, the Soldier’s Medal and other awards from both the U.S. and Vietnamese governments, according to his family.

“He was a soldier’s soldier,” said his wife, Joan. “I don’t think you can say a thing better about a man in the military. He could get people to do things — young men, young soldiers and older ones, too — he could get them to do things they didn’t know they could do.”

Mr. Daniel was wounded during his first tour in Vietnam between 1965 and 1966, when, during a night attack, he was hit in the leg with shrapnel, a wound doctors thought might cost the young officer his leg. Instead, he came back from the injury and returned to combat, his wife said.

But during his stay at the military hospital in Danang, Vietnam, he met a mute soldier, who could not be more than 19, Mr. Daniel told his wife. The man suffered from what doctors at the time called “shell shock,” and nurses encouraged the other patients to talk to the man, always with little success. That is, before Daniel asked the man: “Howie, are you a good soldier?”

The fellow patient sat straight up in his bed and replied: “No sir, I’m a Marine.”

“That was the beginning of his rehabilitation,” Joan Daniel said.

During the early 1960s, Daniel was attached to the ROTC unit at the University of Tennessee. There, he founded the first Ranger training program at a civilian college, his wife said.

Mr. Daniel is also survived by six children and their families: Elizabeth Stuart Bickford, John Spencer Daniel III, Edward DeGraffenreid Daniel, William Taylor Daniel, Matthew Fontaine Daniel and Mark Tyson Daniel.

Mr. Daniel will be buried July 22 with full military honors at the East Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery.

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