This is true for Dan Anton, a retired Infantry Ranger Army Major, who hails from a proud family of military service. Dan’s father Jim, his father James, grandfather Henry, and his great grandfather all served in the United States military. Dan knew of the family’s military tradition but had no plans to join the service. His passion was computer science and solving complex problems.
A Video Game Nerd Strikes Gold
It started off as a hobby, while attending Neptune Highschool in New Jersey, buying and selling video games, creating guides for popular games such as EverQuest; his passion for video games was growing into a business. As a high school student, Dan was making thousands of dollars each month, selling rare games and guides online. The 90’s was the birth of the MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game), where virtual realities suddenly had real world financial ecosystems.
Dan Anton would continue his part-time business during college, where he graduated with honors from Mount Clair State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Business and minor in Computer Science. The little fantasy, both literally and figuratively, bubble he lived in would soon be busted…
9/11 – Who Am I?
It’s not often we have to face our own “reality”. In this moment the world wasn’t just video games and business. The planes not only knocked down the towers, but the façade around Dan’s life. With a country torn, the thought of pursuing private sector conquests seemed small, petty, and childlike.
“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” – 1 Corinthians 13:11
His love of country compelled him, and thousands of others to signup in the United States armed forces in the following weeks, after the horrific attack.
The Cream Rises to the Top
Dan enlisted and completed basic training. As a natural athlete in sports (former junior boxing champion for NJ and New York), and natural leadership tendencies he displayed when running a 100 man virtual “guild” in EverQuest, Dan’s attention to detail and commitment to excellence lead him to Officer Candidate School (OCS), where he attained the rank of 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Army.
Not satisfied, Dan was selected for Ranger School, where he completed the grueling training, and opted to become Airborne certified after successful plane jumps. You can view a complete list of awards and achievements here.
You’re Going to Iraq
With men under his command, and completed trainings, Dan was physically and mentally prepared for combat. Unlike the fictional battlefields of EverQuest, Iraq represented a game with no reset button – life or death. As an Infantry 1st Lieutenant, Dan and his men regularly left the green zone to pursue combat missions.
Their mission was to seek out, engage and kill the enemy. For over one year, Dan and his men would exchange blows with the enemy, netting his unit hundreds of confirmed kills, and strategic captures, but lost many brothers in the fight against terror. The deployment was finally over, and Dan returned home, stateside.
Entrepreneurial Bug Still Biting
It was 2006, Myspace still ruled the social networking roost. Reddit was just founded, and online communities began to flourish. Dan saw an opportunity to combine his passion for video games, and his business skills to create a social network for gamers, Character Planet. With thousands of new members, the website simply didn’t have the right systems in place to be successful. It required venture capital and a full-time CEO, neither of which were a possibility, as Dan loved his new career in the United States Army.
With thousands of new members logging in, the website was able to attract the gamer community attention, but ultimately resulted in a failed passion project, where Dan and his brother Matt Anton learned how to market websites effectively online. Their skillsets became more focused on the promotion of real businesses, primarily through SEO (Search Engine Optimization), email marketing (early social media networking), and traffic generation through press contacts.
The market timing was perfect, as businesses began to shift marketing dollars online, in large part because of Google. Both Dan and Matt were now experts in multiple online disciplines. Matt went on to become the online marketing manager of Liberty Travel, a billionaire dollar travel agency, while Dan focused on creating software with his computer science background. Both still had full-time jobs, but were growing their part-time marketing business.
A C H I L L E S is Called Upon Once Again
With their marketing agency now growing in client volume and revenue, Dan was informed of his unit’s second deployment to Iraq. The part-time company would continue to operate from Dan’s piecework Iraq internet connection, and Matt at night after his 9-5 job. The private sector took a backseat to the military and the business would remain stagnant throughout the deployment.
During his hundreds of combat encounters, from small arms fire to full-scale war, Dan was known as “Achilles” by his men for his uncanny bravery and willingness to put himself at risk to save his men against the enemy.
Much like Achilles’ fate, lady-luck can shift its favor. One day, during an intense ambush, Dan’s vehicle was hit with a series of IEDs, where he sustained an injury to his vertebrate. Once stateside, he realized he would never be able to perform the duties in combat, and did not want to be a desk general; he reluctantly decided to retire as an Infantry Army Ranger Major, receiving two bronze stars for valor in combat, during 2 combat deployments in Iraq. Knowing he was lucky to be alive, Dan wanted to honor the men he served with and his own life by finding a new reason to live, a new passion.
From Entrepreneur to Warrior to Entrepreneur: Full Circle
As most military brats and family members can attest, they are a product of their environment; values and principles instilled from an early age.
Dan’s family has proudly served the United States in the armed services for centuries. His current generation, older brother Tommy and younger brother Scott are military war veterans in the United States Army, also serve proudly.
Dan Anton started off in the private sector as a young kid with a love for video games, before his true calling as an adult became clear to him, serving his country. Today he is committed to reinventing himself and finding purpose: creating software and services that solve complex problems, primarily in the marketing and investment industry. His client-side Atlanta based SEO Company focuses on creating strategies for business owners to reach their target market effectively through digital marketing.
Dan has been fortunate enough to become successful in America, the land of the free and prosperous; he is an advocate and supporter of The Wounded Warrior Project because he understands “Freedom isn’t Free”, is not just a slogan, it’s what makes America great, and the men and women who continue to put on the uniform deserve the support of the nation.