He woke from a coma to find his life had changed. That tragedy would become his calling.
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DAV

Your entire life can change on a dime. For Dave Riley, the culprit was much smaller than that.

As a search-and-rescue swimmer in the Coast Guard, Riley knew there were risks involved in his profession. But it wasn’t a dangerous rescue that led to tragedy. In fact, the risk was completely invisible to the eye.

While Riley was vacationing off the shores of Dauphin Island, Alabama, bacteria in the water led to an infection which eventually turned septic. His body went into shock, and he fell into a coma. When he woke up three months later, he found all four of his limbs had been amputated in order to save his life.


“The way I felt when I first woke up from the coma was, I would say, despair and anguish … my whole body was falling apart,” he says. “[There was] that initial period of not wanting to be here.”

Recovery would take time, first in a hospital and then rehab. The infection dissipated, but his body was burned as a result and he was in incredible pain. He also had to learn how to live with these disabilities that he was in no way prepared for.

Thankfully, he had people in his life who carried him through those difficult months.

His wife Yvonne was there by his side through it all. Even perfect strangers, like a woman who read scripture to him in the hospital on a difficult night, and local veterans who were similarly disabled, helped restore him little by little.

But, ultimately, it was DAV (Disabled American Veterans) that helped him turn things around.

When Riley began struggling with depression after rehab, dissatisfied with his career and feeling aimless, his local chapter sent him to the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic. It was there that adaptive gear enabled him to ski downhill. The thrill reignited him in a way he hadn’t felt in a long time.

“You get some adrenaline back,” he says. “It kinda makes you feel more alive.”

By finding a community and support system through DAV, and a newfound passion for adaptive sports, Riley started to feel like himself again.

And he wanted to find a way to give back to the organization that had given him so much, so he started volunteering for them.

As he rose through the nonprofit's leadership ranks, he had a profound impact on other disabled veterans and their families; in him, they’d found a kindred spirit and an example of resilience to follow.

That’s when Riley’s life changed again, this time, for the better. The organization that supported him in recovery wanted him to lead them.

His fellow veterans at DAV unanimously elected Riley to be their national commander, which he took on with the same enthusiasm he’d become known for. The role allowed him to travel and represent the organization at conferences and events, touching the lives of countless veterans and their families.

He testified in Congress on behalf of other veterans in February 2017, emphasizing the importance of supporting caregivers of severely disabled veterans. He even ate breakfast with the president in the White House.

And while serving his community was an incredible honor, it helped him just as much as it did them.

“When I was in my bouts of depression, it really helped me to be able to go out and help another person,” he continues. “You get a lot more back.”

Veterans helping veterans

After losing his limbs to an immune response, this vet dedicated his life to helping other disabled veterans.

Posted by Upworthy on Wednesday, July 11, 2018

It’s a calling that Riley continues to answer now that he’s a mentor to other injured veterans.

Riley is able to show struggling veterans the possibilities that exist for them, and how they might live life on their own terms. These veterans also find healing in connection and community — the same kind of community that helped Riley get through his darkest hours.

“For them to see somebody else out there, doing things, it kind of clicks in their mind, just like it did with me,” he explains. “That, ‘hey, he can do it, I can do it.’ . . . that’s my calling.” Moments like those, he says, remind him that he has something truly vital to offer others.

Riley has since taken up woodworking as well, a passion he was convinced he wouldn’t be able to return to, using equipment that is now adapted for his prosthetics. He invites other disabled veterans into his shop, and together, they construct beautiful wooden boxes to offer other veterans and their supporters.

It’s a unique gesture, but more importantly, it’s a tangible reminder that no veteran has to take on civilian life alone.

When tragedy strikes, everything can change. But it’s up to us what we do next.

When we’re staring down the impossible, we’re faced with a choice — we can sink or we can swim. Just like in his early days in the Coast Guard, when up against the unthinkable, Riley rose to the occasion.

For injured and disabled veterans facing the frightening unknowns of civilian life, Riley’s resilience offers hope. And if his story shows us anything, it’s that hope is one of the most powerful gifts we can give another person.

“It really allows me to have a sense of purpose in my life,” he says. “I think there's no greater calling.”

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
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Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

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I remember being baffled that so many people were so convinced of Clinton's evil schemes that they genuinely saw the documented serial liar and cheat that she was running against as the lesser of two evils. I mean, sure, if you believe that a career politician had spent years being paid off by powerful people and was trafficking children to suck their blood in her free time, just about anything looks like a better alternative.

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It's been four years and Hillary Clinton has been found guilty of exactly none of the criminal activity she was being accused of. Trump spent every campaign rally leading chants of "Lock her up!" under the guise that she was going to go to jail after the election. He's been president for nearly four years now, and where is Clinton? Not in jail—she's comfy at home, occasionally trolling Trump on Twitter and doing podcasts.

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
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Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

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The harm done with racist humor isn't just the emotional hurt they can cause. When a group of white people shares jokes at the expense of a marginalized or oppressed racial group, the power of white supremacy is actually reinforced—not only because of the "punching down" nature of such humor, but because of the group dynamics that work in favor of maintaining the status quo.

British author and motivational speaker Paul Scanlon shared a story about interrupting a racist joke at a table of white people at an event in the U.S, and the lessons he drew from it illustrate this idea beautifully. Watch:

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With the election quickly approaching, the importance of voting and sending in your ballot on time is essential. But there is another way you can vote everyday - by being intentional with each dollar you spend. Support companies and products that uphold your values and help create a more sustainable world. An easy move is swapping out everyday items that are often thrown away after one use or improperly disposed of.

Package Free Shop has created products to help fight climate change one cotton swab at a time! Founded by Lauren Singer, otherwise known as, "the girl with the jar" (she initially went viral for fitting 8 years of all of the waste she's created in one mason jar). Package Free is an ecosystem of brands on a mission to make the world less trashy.

Here are eight of our favorite everyday swaps:

1. Friendsheep Dryer Balls - Replace traditional dryer sheets with these dryer balls that are made without chemicals and conserve energy. Not only do these also reduce dry time by 20% but they're so cute and come in an assortment of patterns!

Package Free Shop

2. Last Swab - Replacement for single use plastic cotton swabs. Nearly 25.5 billion single use swabs are produced and discarded every year in the U.S., but not this one. It lasts up to 1,000 uses as it's able to be cleaned with soap and water. It also comes in a biodegradable, corn based case so you can use it on the go!

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