Stay the Course, when used in the context of war or battle, means to pursue the goal regardless of obstacles or criticism. We chose this as the theme of this year’s Veteran’s Passport To Hope 2015 Gala to remind veterans that no matter the obstacles they may face, or the criticisms they may come up against, continue to move forward in achieving their goals.
This year our main speaker, Daniel Riley (Pictured top left), encompasses this spirit. In late 2007 at age 22, Daniel enlisted in the Marine Corps as an Infantryman. At the Gala, Daniel will speak about his experiences and challenges. In his own words, here are some of the events he addresses about his background:
“After attending boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego and the School of Infantry at Camp Pendleton, California, I was stationed at my first duty station in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina with the 3rd Battalion/Ninth Marines. Shortly afterwards I was augmented to the 6th Marine Regiment and assigned to the Personal Security Detachment, and in 2008, was deployed to Iraq.
Once there I worked on providing security for the Regimental Commander. The deployment was relatively calm as the Iraq war was winding down. Returning to the States in Oct 2009, I was reassigned to the S3 as a clerk.
In August of 2010, I heard that the Marine Corps was asking for volunteers to go to Afghanistan as combat replacements, meaning volunteers would take over the position of a wounded/killed Marine. I volunteered and within a week was on a plane to Afghanistan.
While in Afghanistan I was out on a small patrol base, no electricity or running water with the only contact to outside world snail mail and occasional satellite phone calls. Every day we performed foot patrols and security operations. This was a tough and dangerous environment, but the men with me were the best.
On December 16, 2010 I stepped on an IED and instantly lost both legs above the knee, and part of my left hand, as well as numerous internal injuries. Thankfully my Marines and especially my Corpsman were well trained and great at their job. They got me stabilized quickly and a medivac helicopter on the way. From the field I was airlifted to a trauma hospital in Afghanistan, and then sent to Germany. After many surgeries I was flown to Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland.”
From there he was stabilized and eventually released from ICU, however his battle in living life as a veteran was only just beginning. Daniel endured rehab, 20 some-odd surgeries, physical therapy and eventually prosthetics. While at the hospital he was introduced to adaptive sports and got involved with many of them including surfing, cycling, running, and triathlons.
“However, one sport in particular was where I found my passion: Skiing. In 2012 I went out to Vail and participated in one of Vail Veterans Program’s (VVP) events. There I learned how to mono-ski and fell in love. The sport in many ways became my continued therapy and rehab. Being in Vail that January changed my outlook and reenergized me into living my life again not just surviving. Sept 2012, I was medically retired from the Marine Corps as a Corporal and returned to Colorado. At that time VVP asked me to be on their Board of Directors, a position I gladly accepted.
It gives me the ability to share a great program and outdoor recreation with my peers, who are other injured veterans. Sports and the outdoors have become my passion and I believe that they are crucial in the recovery and rehabilitation of service members returning with combat injuries (physical or invisible).”
“The military gives you a purpose, a drive, something definitive to work for. Once you get out, that is lost. You have to find it in the real world, find your passion. Whether that is sports, arts, school, or a job. It doesn’t matter what it is: find the one the thing gets you excited to wake up in the morning. Discover it and then make it your mission. The military instills the ability to accomplish the mission.”
We invite you to join us at this year’s Gala, to be inspired by Daniel and support all veterans, encouraging them to “Stay the Course”. Table sponsorships are currently available! Tickets for this event will be available very soon. Stayed tuned to our website and connect with us on social media! If you are interested in donating a silent auction item for this event or purchasing tickets for a veteran plus one guest to attend, please email firstname.lastname@example.org