Hero of the Month: PO Daniel Cussans (1978 - 2022)
PO Daniel Cussans was a thoughtful husband, devoted father and a compassionate sailor, serving in the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy at RNAS Yeovilton.On the 15th of July 2022, Dan died from a head injury following a motorbike accident. He was on adventurous training in Spain completing the Battlefield Tour. He was 43 years old.
His children, Charlie, Josie and Jess were eight, ten and 23.
“Dan had a real presence,” says Suzanne, Dan’s wife. “He was witty, giving and a devoted family-man who never stopped making us laugh. Fitness was an important part of his life and he loved running and weightlifting. He was always trying to keep his squadron as active as possible, because he felt it really helped everyone’s mental health. He was known as the ‘night runner’ in our village because no matter how late it was, he made sure to go for a run every day. It was quite normal to see him with his headtorch on running around the village while everyone else was getting ready for bed. Before he died, he was busy training for an Ironman and was regularly doing half marathons in preparation.”
When not at work, spending time with his family or keeping fit, Dan could be found indulging in his favourite hobby: riding motorbikes.
“He started riding motorbikes when he was four years old. He grew up around them and loved everything about them.”
Despite being such a busy person, Dan always put his family first and loved spending time with the children as much as he possibly could.
“He was almost always the one to tuck them in to bed and he would read to Josie and Charlie every night. They had started reading the Harry Potter books, and sometimes he would say ‘okay, I’ve read a bit to you, now it’s your turn to read a bit to me.’ The kids love board games, so on weekends he’d always play with them and they’d go out and walk the dog together. During his last year I was in the process of setting up my own business, which he knew would take a lot of time from me, so he made sure to avoid any long trips away if he could. I will always be grateful for the time he spent with the kids before he left for the motorcycle tour.”
Dan joined the military when he was 28 years old, having previously worked as a fabric welder before seeking a change of career. The military had always appealed to him, and he went on to serve an impressive 14 years of service.
“He was an aircraft engineer working on the Royal Navy’s Merlin helicopters. He was based in Norway for a couple of years which he absolutely loved. I think that was probably the happiest time of his career. He had been moving up the ranks and was asked if he wanted to extend his time in Norway for another year, but turned it down to help me set up and run the business, which I think really just shows how giving he was.”
Suzanne and the children are always thinking about Dan, and they all like to remember in slightly different ways.
“Dan is buried in the Fleet Air Arm Church just around the corner from where we live, and we’ll regularly go to his grave and talk and think about him. Josie speaks about him all the time and is always asking questions and bringing him up in conversation. Just recently she asked to have a picture of him next to her bed. A funny thing about Dan is that, even though he was super into fitness, he also loved burgers and meat and anything greasy – he would’ve eaten at McDonald’s every day if he could – and Charlie came up with the idea to go to start going to McDonald’s for our birthdays every year.”
Dan made a difference wherever he went, and it’s clear to Suzanne how the children have taken after him and the impact he’s had on their lives.
“Our youngest, Charlie, is a born entertainer, just like his dad. He’s very sporty, too. It helps him deal with things, which is like Dan as well. Myself and a group of friends completed a triathlon in memory of Dan a few weeks ago for charity, and that spurred Charlie to start running again as well, which is what Dan would have wanted.”
“Our middle child, Josie, has a disability, but Dan was always working with her, helping her build up her physical stamina, helping her walk, run, ride a bike. To look at her now, you’d never know she had any physical struggles at all.”
Dan came into his eldest child’s life, stepdaughter Jess, when she was ten years old, and immediately took on the responsibility of fatherhood with the same care and dedication he would later show Josie and Charlie.
“The positive impact Dan had on Jess is absolutely huge. He came into her life at such an important time and was a brilliant influence from day one.”
Since joining Scotty’s in 2022, the family have benefitted from Scotty Breaks, grants, group events and the option to access one-to-one bereavement support. Through these opportunities, they have been able to meet lots of bereaved military children who can understand and relate to what they’ve been through.
“We went on a Scotty break to Centre Parcs earlier in the year. It was Dan’s favourite place to go as a family and I really want the kids to be able to go back and enjoy it without comparing it to the times they went with their dad. We went in the Summer, which was great as we used to go in the winter, so we weren’t comparing it to all the times we went before and could just focus on having fun and making new memories. We also went to the Christmas party last year, which they absolutely loved. Josie in particular was quite shy, but by the end she had gone off and had a great time. She developed so much over the course of that day.”
“Scotty’s has been fabulous at helping the kids realise that there’s other people going through the same thing as them. It’s lovely to have that support network you can reach out to whenever you need it.”