At the age of 15, Officer Dan Donnerstag watched his older sister volunteer with the EMS and decided he too wanted to help people in need. Since that day, he never stopped.
We caught up with Dan to learn more about his experience as a police officer and what drove him to enter such selfless profession.
On September 11, 2001 when Dan was 17 and still volunteering as an EMT, he went to Hoboken, New Jersey to help take injured Americans to the hospital. Meeting people so directly affected by the attacks was one of the many reasons he decided to join the military. Dan served in the United States Marine Corps for about six years until he was honorably discharged as a Captain.
Dan admits he then tried the business world, but soon realized he wanted to get back to his roots of civil service and became a police officer.
“It’s a humanity thing. As cheesy as it sounds, I really just wanted to help people. Despite what you see on the television, there is a lot of humanitarian aid work that we do with folks in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Dan told us, so the transition made sense.
From 6am to 6pm, Dan is active in his community in northern New Jersey. He recently got a call about a black bear roaming around, which highlights the range just one day on the job has. “One minute you could be dealing with a black bear, and the next an emotionally disturbed person trying to harm themselves. Police officers have to wear multiple hats, and you have to get used to that.”
Our conversation with Dan was a refreshing reminder that our law enforcement is here to help, and it’s their job to do so.
“Like any job, it can be difficult. But you have to stay grounded, and remember why you’re doing the job you’re doing, because ultimately, it’s not about you — it’s about the folks you’re helping.”
This spirit was renewed in Dan one time at 2 o’clock in the morning when he answered a call and found himself delivering the baby of his childhood soccer teammate in his home.
“There are really no words. It was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever experienced,” Dan said. “The feeling of helping someone in need — that’s the main goal and it’s the reason I do what I do.”
As we continue to commemorate National Police Week, House Republicans are grateful for Dan and officers like him across the country.