Retired Aviation Survivalman First Class David Riley, a quadruple amputee, became the first Coast Guardsman to be awarded the Disabled American Veterans’ Outstanding Disabled Veteran of the Year Award at the organization’s annual convention in Atlanta, Ga., today. The award recognizes Riley’s outstanding achievements that include his community service, Coast Guard Auxiliary membership and athletic activities.
Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp was on hand for the presentation and addressed the delegates. “It’s an honor to be here and take part in the presentation of the Outstanding Disabled Veteran of the Year award to a remarkable Coast Guardsman,” said Papp.
Riley enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1984, and completed Aviation Survivalman School and Navy Helicopter Rescue School in 1986. At that time, the Coast Guard’s aviation survival program was in its infancy, having just been officially stood up in 1984. His first assignment was at Coast Guard Air Station San Francisco, where he qualified in an HH-52 helicopter. Riley went on to become qualified in three other Coast Guard helicopters: HH-3s, HH65s and HH60s.
“Being a rescue swimmer is one of the most challenging jobs in the Coast Guard,” said Papp, adding, “It requires extraordinary physical demands.”
Dave was medically retired in 1998 after a bacterial infection caused the loss of all four of his limbs. Since his injury, Dave has gone on to become an inspirational leader in the local Disabled American Veterans chapter, a Veterans Administration hospital volunteer, Auxiliary member, and disabled athlete.
“Dave is continuing to live out his life by the rescue swimmers creed – so that others might live – the only difference is that those others are no longer people in need of rescue from the sea,” said Papp. “He now rescues injured veterans returning home in need of an example of how to cope with their injuries.”
The Disabled American Veterans is a 1.2 million-member non-profit organization founded in 1920 and chartered by the U.S. Congress in 1932. It represents our Nation’s wartime disabled veterans and is dedicated to a single purpose: building better lives for disabled veterans and their families.