An Extraordinary Life

DAV Past National Commander Dave Riley constructs desktop boxes in his shop outside of his home in Mobile, Alabama. Each box is individually numbered and Riley’s custom “hook made” logo is burned into each box. Riley constructs these boxes from discarded barn wood.

“When I found the wood that makes up these boxes it was used, broken and discarded. Some might say it had outlived its worth,” said Riley. “This is how many ill and injured veterans may feel when they try to chart a life’s course alone. They can feel used up, that they have no purpose in life and that they too, like that pile of old barn wood, have been discarded.

That’s why the work DAV does in the veteran community is so vitally important. We can show fellow disabled veterans that the splintered pieces of their life can be reshaped and repurposed into something extraordinary.”

I have became a businessman, a VA hospital volunteer and a DAV National Officer. My illness was only an event in my life. It took some things from me, but it gave me many things too. So I am a better person for it. I’ve visited the VA poly trauma center in Tampa, Florida, to speak to some of the most severely wounded veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And I’ve been blessed, through DAV, with the opportunity to meet and mentor younger veterans who were recently injured and are now facing their own new normal.

“It took years of recovery and rehabilitation to restore my life to the new normal I face,” said Riley. “It was the love of my wife and family, my inner strength and my sense of purpose that ultimately led to a high-quality life.

“Not long after getting involved with DAV, I had the opportunity to attend my first winter sports clinic,” said Riley. “I don’t mind telling you I was in a very dark place at the time. “But the clinic taught me something about being a disabled veteran. It taught me that the only limits we have are those that we place on ourselves.”

After his first clinic, Riley self-pledged to never let the loss of his arms and legs get in the way of him enjoying all life has to offer.

“Since then, I’ve remained active,” Riley said. “I enjoy my recumbent bike and have done several of our DAV 5Ks. DAV is now involved in the TEE golf tournament in Iowa every year.”

DAV Past National Commander Dave Riley and his wife, Yvonne, at the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial in Washington, D.C. While swimming near Dauphin Island, Alabama, PNC Riley contracted a serious infection that resulted in septic shock.

“My wife Yvonne, who I love more than anything in this world, had to be brave enough to make my medical decisions for me because I was in a medically induced coma,” said Riley.

I can’t imagine…I just can’t imagine it at all…the stress she went through in telling the doctors they could amputate my limbs so I could have a chance of surviving. I woke up to discover I had no arms and no legs.”

“I remember seeing a fellow leg amputee walking on a prosthetic not long after I got hurt. I thought, ‘if he can do it; I can do it.’ I’ve had an active life ever since then. It’s important to look forward and live your life while not dwelling in the past. Get out there and chase your dreams and the things that inspire you.”

-Dave Riley

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