Vietnam vet, firefighter now battling cancer
News · June 28, 2013

A grandfather of both West Branch and West Liberty students and athletes, Daniel Borash took the pitcher’s mound last week when the two softball teams recognized him for his two-year fight with cancer.

Borash threw out the first pitch before the varsity softball match June 17 at West Branch High School, which was caught by granddaughter Shelby Martin, who pitches for the Comets.

“This is overwhelming,” the Vietnam veteran said of the attention. “This is very humbling.”

Borash, a former firefighter, said the recognition was a surprise.

“They dropped this on me all at once,” he said. “I am grateful that they all came together (to do this).”

Borash, wife Diana, and several family members wore pink “Team Grandpa Dan” T-shirts stating they were “Knocking cancer out of the park.”

Wayne Laing, who announces the home games, read a brief biography on Borash to the crowd that called him a “hero” — not only for fighting cancer and outliving an early life expectancy prediction, but for the life he had before he was diagnosed in June 2011 with “incurable squamous cell cancer of the larynx.”

Borash, the youngest of five children, “was raised to believe in God, Mankind and the greater good that existed in the world,” read the biography.

Borash played football and hockey and was an all-city goalie his senior year in high school. He joined the U.S. Army and spent eight months in Vietnam where he survived a shot to the gut and was treated at Dong Tamh Hospital before being returned to the states. He was awarded the Good Conduct Medal, an Air Medal for combat flight missions, a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.

Borash attended college for two years then got a job as a St. Paul (Minnesota) firefighter and paramedic, serving for 28 years.

“He helped put out hundreds of fires, saved multiple lives and delivered over a dozen babies,” read the biography.

While serving as a firefighter, he met Diana Collins, who managed the 911 Communications Center for the fire department.

In 2009, Dan donated a kidney to safe the life of a close friend and former fire captain. It was only an idea at first, because Bob needed a medical match for the procedure to work. Less than a month later, the Mayo Clinic determined there was a match and the transplant was performed.

Two years later, in June 2011, was when Dan got the news from his doctor that he had cancer.

Apparently, during his service in Vietnam, he was exposed to Agent Orange, a chemical herbicide designed to make leaves fall from plants and which later was suspected in causing cancer in veterans.

He was given 11 months to live, and endured chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgeries before it went into a short remission. His doctor encouraged him to get out and live life.

In February, Dan was told the cancer spread to his lungs, and this time he was given a year to live. He is currently receiving chemotherapy.

A few years ago, it was Diana who brought Dan to West Branch, where she had graduated high school and near where many family members lived.

The Borashes have five daughters, four of whom — Tracy Schutte, Kelly Dowleer, Stephanie Martin and Lindsay Nash — attended school in West Branch or West Liberty. A fifth daughter, Jordan Borash, graduated from Hopkins, Minn., High School.

Before Shelby, the Borashes had three other grandchildren playing softball for either West Branch or West Liberty: Taylor Wolf, Samantha Smith and Kaity Martin.

At games where West Branch and West Liberty compete, Dan and Diana say they sit in the middle, “cheer for all the kids and pray for tie games,” read the biography.

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