Welcome

The family and friends of Cpl. Daniel C. W. Riley, USMC, welcome you to join in as we celebrate and support the life of an incredible young man, friend, son, and brother. It is with great love and with many prayers we know that Daniel will move on to great and wonderful things. God has big plans for him! Daniel was born in Victoria, BC, Canada. In 1999 his family (Dad, Mum, brothers Tristan and Aaron, & sister Elizabeth, & cat) moved to Denver, Colorado, where his dad began working for the Episcopal Church in Colorado overseeing work with children, youth, and young adults. Daniel started high school in 1999 at Columbine High School. After three years at CHS he finished his high school at Brentwood College in Canada in 2004. After which he did some college and worked in the US and Canada. Daniel enlisted (still a Canadian citizen) in US Marine Corps in 2008 to serve his new country and to help pay for a future college education. On July 4, 2009 Daniel swore in as a US citizen before the Vice-President in Sadam Hussein's old palace in Bagdad, Iraq. In September 2010 he was sent as a combat replacement for the 2/6 Marines in Marjah, Afghanistan. On December 16, 2010, Daniel was severely wounded by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). He primarily suffered severe wounds to his legs, left arm, and left lung. There were many times he was close to not making it. He has since had both legs amputated above the knee and three fingers amputated on his left hand. His lung and other injuries are healing well. Before this event and for many years to come, we know Daniel to be a loving, caring, intellegent, humourous, giving, adventurous, and deep thinking person. Keep praying! And use this blog to share your thoughts and encouragement.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A little Surf, Sun, and fun...



A couple weeks ago I would have said "surfing, sure sounds like fun". Few days later and my response is much more enthusiastic . I'm hooked. Surfing is a unbelievably great time.
This weekend I had the opportunity to spend a few days at San Onofre beach (just north of San diego) doing nothing but surfing and hanging out. Once a year Operation Amped (great guys, check out their website) put together a surf camp for wounded vets. I really don't know how many guys were out but it was a good number., for sure a decent crew. The group do a great job of making it easy; all the accommodations on the beach, food, surfboards and gear, etc. All me and the other guys had to do was show up. Almost at a one-to-one ratio, all of the participants had a mentor/instructor help us out in the water. Seeing though most of us had never surfed before, and all have a vast array of different injuries, the individual help was well received. All weekend I had Josh Harper getting me up and going. Really great guy, he made me look good. (and since he works for Billabong hooked us all up with gear and got the company to help sponsor the event) Can't thank him enough...and hopefully i'll get to keep surfing with him in the future. Honestly, thanks to everyone that helped make to weekend a huge success. (especially Betty, you crazy woman for getting me into this).
My body is still recovering from 4 days of surfing, my face is still sunburnt, my wheelchair is still covered is sand, but i'm still riding the high of enjoyment. Getting out in the ocean and surfing is one of the few times where I don't notice the my injuries, hell it barely an afterthought. Or maybe I'm just turning into a Californian.

Josh riding a wave with me

Catching a wave.

And me about to catch a face full of sea water...

Some of the group


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Surfing USA

This morning included a new adventure ..... learning to surf!
(click the pictures to see them larger)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Hand-cycling highlighted in the local news

Daniel was one of the injured Marines featured on a local news channel.  A story was done about a group of the marines who gather every Tuesday to go hand-cycling.  Daniel and a few others are training to cycle the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC, in the Fall.

The story can be found at http://www.10news.com/news/28675526/detail.html

*** Video is up. =)

- Dad

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Stroll to Starbucks

Daniel on a quick stroll down to the local Starbucks. Half way there he stops and smiles, "this is the furthest I have been from my wheelchair since I got it."

Time Photos

Since the reference in the 9News interview - http://danielcwriley.blogspot.com/2011/05/9-news.html - many have asked about the pictures that were taken of Daniel on the day he was injured.  After much discussion Daniel has said to "go ahead and post them".  (Note - these are hard to look at.  We offer them only as a way to "make whole" the story and help all to appreciate the fullness of this journey.)

A little backstory.  After a while in the hospital Daniel shared that he recalled that a photographer of some kind was on the helicopter with him as he was being medevac'd after the explosion.  We had tried to find out who the photographer was, or who he was with, from Daniel's unit NCO's, but were unsuccessful.  In February we got a call from a family friend who said that he thinks that Daniel's photo was in Time Magazine.

In December 2009 a woman was visiting a friend and was at a Christmas Eve church service in Vail, Colorado.  Our family was also there and Daniel was in his "dress-blues" uniform.  The woman met Daniel then for the first, and last, time.  Just over a year later this woman is at her home in New York and was reading a Time Magazine.  In it was a photo-article entitled "Wings of Mercy: Medevac in Afghanistan" (January 17, 2011) by the world famous photographer James Nachtwey.  She was interested in reading it because she had heard about Daniel's situation.  She turned to the page and there was a two-page spread photograph of Daniel.  She had only ever seen Daniel once in her life and she recognized him as the young marine she met over a year ago in Colorado.  She told her friend in Vail (and mailed the article). Her friend told our family friend and the information got to us.

Using an iPhone to search the internet we found the photo.  Even on the small screen, we could see that it was Daniel.  It was, however, the most horrific picture I have ever seen in my life.  It was not due to the graphic nature of it - it really isn't that bad.  It was just shocking to my core to see my son laying there only moments after the explosion.  It was the eyes that captured me.  I saw in that picture the eyes of my little boy.  Not hurting. Not struggling. Just eyes that said that he was scared and confused.  It broke my heart. It still does every time I see it - or even think about it.

Later reports filled in that he was still very much struggling for his life.  He "crashed" just before the helicopter arrived and again at the hospital. There are three very real gifts of God when I see the picture. One, that he lived! Two, the miracle that a woman who saw Daniel only once, recognised him in the article and was willing to share that. (We are very thankful to her for that!). Three, that even the though he picture indicates something different, Daniel recalls "calm".  He does not remember panic, pain, or fear ..... just calm.  I cannot explain it other than that the Lord God was with him at the very worst moment in his life.  I trust God will continue to be with him through the rest of the journey.

We share the picture with you today.  We have tried many times and in many ways to contact Time Magazine and the photographer. But, we have been unsuccessful.  We would love to get better quality versions of it and Daniel would love to see other pictures of that day.

The first pictures shows Daniel being carried to the helicopter by members of his unit and the medievac team.  The second shows him moments later being attended to as the flew him to the field hospital.  Both were two-page spreads in the magazine.

From the article:
"Another snapshot from hell, another dusty field. This time it's a Marine being carried on a litter--a young man, both his legs gone, blown off by an IED, the signature weapon of the war. The flight medic works with fierce concentration while the crew chief talks to the Marine, keeping him from passing out so he can help fight for his life as he toughs out the pain."
 
Caption (photo 2): 
"Life Struggle. The injured Marine is treated by crew members. He survived the IED blast but lost both of his legs."

- Dad



You can find the full article at: http://www.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,2040942,00.html
also http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2041191,00.html

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Danielathlon (June 4, 2011)

Flashback to the Danielathlon (June 4, 2011)


It is thanks to some very good friends of Daniel that the Danielathlon became an idea, grew to an actual event, and was pulled off so successfully. On a lovely sunny day at a park in south Denver many friends, family, and complete strangers gathered to meet and greet Daniel. It was a celebration of him and all that he has accomplished since December 16th. People came from all over the state to even "just drop by" to say hello and shake the hand of this brave young US Marine.

Daniel's story has touched a great deal of lives. Well-wishers and supporters came to partake, even for a small time, of that story by coming to see Daniel, chat with him, and pass on their prayers and support to him and his family. Many of Daniel's friends came to laugh with him. Friends of the Riley family came to wish Daniel and the family well as they venture forth on a new chapter in their lives. There have also been so many people who have only got to know Daniel through this blog - there were plenty of these.

The hardest part, Daniel shared, was that there was not enough time to spend the time he wanted with all who came. A hand shake or hug, a smile, a picture, and a few words were hardly enough to share his story and share his great appreciation for all the prayers and support. But, he would not have given up even that small amount of time for anything! It was precious to him and also to those who got to connect with Daniel, some for the first time.  There was an estimated 350-400 people who came by to wish him well.

It was a day of fun, food (lots of that, especially cupcakes!), and fellowship. It was a memory that will be cherished.

Heartfelt thanks goes to Caitlin Mock, without whom none of it would been possible. Thank you.

to see pictures go to: http://nmphotography.exposuremanager.com/g/danielathlon and put in password "Smiles"

 

Graduation ceremony #1 - Aaron (May 28, 2011)

Flashback to 05-28-2011

Daniel was able to enjoy some leave from the hospital and be back in Colorado for his youngest brother's high school graduation. It was part of a busy and fun-filled Memorial Day Weekend. It was interesting and well deserved to have a significant period of time that was not about Daniel and all about Aaron. Granted, Aaron eventually got tired of it. :) It has been hard over the past few months to have people focussed on something or someone other than Daniel, his injuries, and his recovery. It was a pleasant experience for him to be able to sit back and just enjoy being part of the family, seeing friends, and just relaxing. This all helps to establish the new normal.

Dad

Friday, June 10, 2011

Enough time off and back to work...

After two weeks back in Colorado, I think for the first time ever I was actually anxious and excited to get back from leave. I guess that being able to get up walking again will do that. Not that being back home (sorta??) wasn't great. Started the trip having a chance to see my brother graduate high school and turn 18, in turn just making me feel old. Bookending the trip was Danielathon, which turned out to be a great time. Thanks to Caitlin and all the other that help make it such a good time. It was great seeing everyone, even if i didn't have near enough time to spend individually (next time I guess). Even in the chaos of my family packing up a house around me I managed to relax a little bit.
However once back into San Diego, it was straight back to appointments this week, and a long week it was. Looking forward to a great deal of time walking,with my sockets fitting well, and no other priorities I got my first full week in. Both prosthetics and physical therapy had me doing endless laps in the parallel bars and with solo-step (basically strapping me in a harness and attaching it to the ceiling). I still barely know what i'm doing, and every muscle in my body is burningly sore. Nevertheless it felt unbelievable to be up and working on it. Not that the week was without difficulty, I did manage to have a hell of time going through methadone withdrawals. It is a necessary evil, but definitely a made for a rough week (for evidence ask Aaron or my dad). Of course adding to the pain was watching the Canucks lose Games 3 and 4. But at least the Game 5 win matched my better mood nearing the end of thee week, now if could just forget my body is aching I'd be good.

Everything-Must-Go Garage Sale

This weekend will complete the Riley's move to San Diego. Tomorrow (Sat. June 11th; 7am-2pm) will be the one-day Everything-Must-Go Garage Sale at the house (7613 W. Quarto Ave., Littleton, CO, 80128). Then drop off leftovers to Goodwill and then load a second truck with remaining items going to the apartment in San Diego. We leave Sunday afternoon to drive the 1100+ miles.

We are expecting, and excited about, a special guest that may come by the garage sale and wish us well on our adventure.

We are all exhausted from sorting, packing, and loading. We look forward to being together as a family again.

We are also looking forward to seeing our son, Tristan, who graduates from US Marine bootcamp (at MCRD, San Diego) in a week! on June 17th! Pray for the successful completion of The Crucible this weekend!

Dad

ps - we are moving into a small one-bedroom apartment near Daniel's.
Neil & Julia Riley
2488 Hilton Head Place
Apt 1119
El Cajon, CA
92019
wanderingbutnotlost@msn.com

Thursday, May 26, 2011

9 News

Daniel was interviewed today by a 9 News reporter, Cheryl Preheim.  He was great and spoke very well.  The interview should air on 9 News Denver tomorrow night (Friday, May 27th) at 9:00 and 10:00 as a Memorial Day special report.  Set those DVRs.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Back on my feet again!

May 17, 2011 was a HUGE day in Daniel's recovery.  He was back up and walking for the first time since December 16th!  He is now beginning his rehabilitation using his C-legs (computerized legs).

Enough said, here is the video ....



Postscript ... Daniel progressed so well on his first day with these legs they are calling him the new "benchmark."  After many laps back and forth along the bars someone said, "Wow, he's ready to do this with canes."  Another staff member replied, "No one has ever done that on their first time up."  Of course, Daniel heard this and responded, "Get me some canes!" and became the first to ever get up on their C-legs for the first time and walk with just the canes!!  More of this attitude to come.

Daniel's new apartment (May 6, 2011)

On May 6th Daniel began a huge step towards independence and to a "normal" life.  He was handed his keys to his first apartment. 
Daniel receiving keys from Cpt. Fred Gorris (USN. ret), head of VHI

It is in a wonderful apartment complex in the Rancho San Diego area (near El Cajon, CA).  It has many services, stores, and a Starbucks within wheelchair distance and is only a 20-25 minute drive from the hospital.  Through some generous people and Veterans Housing Initiative (VHI) he was given the opportunity to get a one-bedroom apartment and a hugely reduced rate.   VHI also completely furnished it and made sure he had all the supplies the needed - especially in the kitchen where Daniel loves to spend time cooking.
"Hmmm... what to grand cuisine should I make first?
Miso-glazed sea bass and asparagus or ramen noodles?"

It affords him enough room to be on his own and be comfortable (and for dad to have a closet and a sleeper-sofa).  Daniel is very thankful to be out of the hospital barracks (where no one gets healthy again!).

Dad's closet (it took his inner "McGyver" to make it work)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Riley Family Relocating

Dear family and friends,

After a great deal of personal and family reflection (and prayer) Julia and I have discerned that the best thing for Daniel and our family is to relocate to the San Diego area.  This is not something we do lightly or without a measure of sadness.  We made a covenant (a promise) to our children when each were born; that we would do all that we can to support and encourage them - no matter what happens.  This relocation is part of living out the covenant we have made with our children.

We have made the decision for a number of reasons:

(1) Daniel will need support and encouragement for many months to come.  He is likely to be at the Naval Medical Center San Diego until the Summer of 2012.  We go primarily to be there for him.  In the near term he will need help driving him places and some assistance with daily living.  Longer term we will be available for occasional assistance and other encouragement as needed.

(2) We have also found that we have reached the end of our ability to function as a family and be separated.  This "family-via-long-distance thing" has grown old and hard to keep doing.  I have been the sole caregiver for five months without a break.  We want to share the honour of helping out our wounded warrior.

(3) We have also reached a point in our financial situation that demands a change.  I have been without pay since January (my employer, The Bishop and Episcopal Diocese of Colorado, has graciously allowed me unpaid leave until August 1st and has covered our medical insurance during that time). Due to an injury and subsequent surgery to Julia's Achilles tendon she has lost her job at Jefferson County School District working in a school cafeteria.  Up until now we have been able to hold off bankruptcy and due to the generosity of some of our creditors (especially US Bank and Chase/JP Morgan) we should continue to avoid filing.  But, we are now at a place where we cannot continue paying our mortgage. It would not feel right to us to keep living in the place and not paying our obligations.  We will be losing our home.  Therefore, we have put our house up for sale and hope that we get enough to cover the remaining mortgage or we will attempt a "short sale."  Please pray for a buyer! Quickly!

A few other notes:
  • I have communicated briefly with Bishop O'Neill that I will not be returning to my ministry with the people of the Diocese of Colorado and Cathedral Ridge.  After almost 12 years, this was a hard thing to do!   I will miss being part of the exciting future of Cathedral Ridge.
  • Daniel and I will be in Colorado until the Danielathlon (June 4th) and then over the next couple weeks we will get our belongings to San Diego and into storage.  We hope to be all there by Tristan's graduation from marine boot camp (June 16-17).
  • We will be having a BIG garage sale on June 10th and 11th.
  • Due to the gracious financial support of so many we have enough funds to cover the move via U-Haul, rent, and living expenses until the end of the summer. We want to give a special thank you to The Rev. Brooks Keith and the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration, Vail, who have pulled together people and resources to assist Daniel and our family.  We are also very thankful for the support of our immediate and distant family members. In the meantime, Julia and I will both begin looking for work that helps us cover our expenses and also make sure we are available as needed for Daniel.
  • We have secured a one-bedroom apartment for Julia and I in the same complex as Daniel's new apartment.  Aaron will come with us for the summer and try and find work.  He will live with Daniel  during that time.  Aaron has been accepted, and hopes, to attend the University of Colorado, Boulder, in the Fall.
We really wish we could have told everyone personally.  Unfortunately, this is all moving fast (our house will be up on the market tomorrow) and we need to get things rolling.  We will truly miss living here in Colorado and the dear friends who we have been privileged to get to know over the past 12 years.  We do not know what the future holds.  We are just travelling the path that seems best to us and allows us to be faithful to what we believe is right for us. We rest in God's hands. We ask for your prayers.

in Christ,
Neil Riley

Leave

Daniel will be enjoying two-weeks of leave back in Colorado.  He arrived Saturday and will be there until June 5th.  It will be a busy couple weeks including all the graduation festivities around his youngest brother's high school graduation, an interview for TV news, hanging out at Barnes and Nobles, and the Danielathlon on June 4th.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Danielathlon

Hey everyone. Some good friends of Daniel are setting up a family day of fun and games in celebration and support of Daniel. Those on Facebook can find It under "Danielathlon". It is planned for June 4th at a park in the Littleton area. Stay tuned for details either on Facebook or on this blog.

We look forward to seeing you all.  :)

........  Caitlin said...
Thanks to Daniel and the family for letting me get this crazy idea off the ground!

The 1st annual Danielathlon will be June 4 at Dekoevend Park in Littleton from 11-2. It's called the Danielathlon because it's going to be ten events and games like a triathlon but kicked up a notch! We're going to have soccer goal shoot outs, lawn bowling, shoe kick, water balloons and other awesome competitions- with a prize for the winner of each of course!

The event will be free to attend but donations will be heavily emphasized. We will also be selling hand screen pressed t-shirts, food and having a raffle for some wonderful door prizes.

Please visit facebook.com/danielathlon for more info. We're working on getting a website up and running to be able to register and should have a logo and printed materials in the next two weeks.

I know all of you love Daniel as much as I do so if you are in the Denver area, please come out and show your support. And pass it on to everyone you know!

Caitlin

Thursday, May 19, 2011

#22 Went Better than Expected

Yesterday's surgery went much better than expected. After a quick time in recovery Daniel was up and ready to get out of the hospital and head to his apartment. In fact, he was in a pretty big hurry to get out of there. At first I was wondering, why the urgency. Was he sick of hospitals? Was it the food? Was he tired or hurting? Nope, none of the above. The Vancouver Canuck's playoff hockey game was starting soon. He was lounging at the apartment watching the game with a drink, a salad and a pizza pocket before the first period had competed 5 minutes.

Surgery #22 complete and he is hoping not to have any more. So, one wonders, do these guys get some kind of frequent flyer points for these surgeries? How about one free after each ten surgeries? Or maybe a parting gift after every five? How about an all-expenses paid cruise for four people after you reach 20? Or how about one dollar's worth of travel on Expedia for every stitch? I'm just saying .....

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Surgery #22

Well it came as a surprise and a disappointment. Daniel has had to go back into surgery to follow up on some work that was done in surgery #21 (May 2nd). He has gone in today and will go home tonight. It was a real blow to Daniel when he was told this on Monday. But, we are now getting used to the ups and downs.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Finally, some food

Daniel is finally allowed to have some real food (granted, that which is offered by The Rice King can hardly be called "food"). Here he is released for a while off the ward to eat and watch the Canucks game.

No. Really?!?

Yesterday I spent the day cleaning, painting, and helping to prepare Daniel's new apartment. Late that evening, when returning back to the barracks, I texted Daniel to see if he was up for a visit or whether he wanted me to drop by in the morning instead. Daniel was tired and said the next day would be fine.
Julia then said, "Hey, this will be the first day you have not seen Daniel since December 24th".
I replied, "No. Really?!?". Then I thought about it and "Yes, really".
Not too sure what to make of that!

Dad

New Address

Daniel's new address will be:

Daniel Riley
1004 - 2452 Hilton Head Place
El Cajon, CA,
92019

Feeling just plain old miserable

Daniel's surgeries on Monday went well. The colostomy reversal went smoothly and all his pipes have been cleaned out and put back together again. The other procedures took longer than expected, but, turned out better than hoped.

However, he still feels miserable. He went without eating or drinking (even water) from Sunday night until Wednesday. The medical staff finally gave him some juice and chicken broth. He was unable to keep it down. He is trying to have some again today. Needless to say he is very tired and weak and feeling yucky! He still hurts as well and the tv in his room doesn't have the channel with the NHL playoffs. On the bright side, he did get a "Super Patient" sticker from the nurses. We hope he will be discharged soon.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A few changes coming this week.

Today Daniel goes into the hospital to prepare for his surgeries.  After they have been completed and he has healed a bit he will be able to start doing so much more! Regular showers and/or baths, swimming, more and better core exercises, wearing his preferred t-shirts, and a whole lot more.

After he gets out (likely late in the week) he will be moving to his new apartment.  Through the generosity of Capt. Fred Gorris (USN-ret) and the organization he heads up, Veterans Housing Initiative, Daniel has been set up with a nice one-bedroom apartment only a 15-20 minute drive from the hospital.  They have secured the unit for him at a very low cost for up to two years, are helping to furnish it, and offer other support to assist in his healing.  It is near shopping, theaters, Starbucks, grocery stores, etc. (Alas, no bookstore nearby).  This a wonderful opportunity to get back into "normal" life and to get out of the barracks.  The barracks at the hospital are not a place to get healthy.  They are conveniently close to his appointments - but that's all!

I will be staying on his couch and helping out as necessary.  That will involve lots of driving until he gets his car adapted and he has taken the adapted driving training.  Julia is coming out to San Diego today for a few days to see Daniel and help set up his new place - no doubt, adding a mother's touch.

Dad

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Support

For those who wish to help out Daniel here is a way:

** help set up Daniel's new apartment (good news on that coming soon); funds need to arrive by Monday, May 2nd - thanks. (memo note - Daniel Riley)
Veterans Housing Initiative (VHI),  501 W. Broadway, Suite A-306, San Diego, CA, 92101


Thank you!!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

PT (Physical Therapy)

One of the constant "appointments" Daniel has each day is PT (Physical Therapy). The work he does there varies greatly. Since the most important muscles that need to be worked to enable him to use the prosthetics are his core muscles (abs, etc) he does lots of exercises and stretching of his core. He also practices walking, balancing, and general fitness. Today included the hand bike while balancing on his stubbies and new sockets. He is now starting to move to two PT times a day as often as possible.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Fundraising Breakfast

Some dear friends and neighbours are planning a breakfast in support of Daniel.  He is blessed by the outpouring of care and support. 

LCpl Daniel Riley Support Breakfast
Saturday, April 23rd, 8-11am
Columbine High School - commons room
6201 S. Pierce St., Littleton, Colorado, 80123

For more information feel free to contact Kerry Huntington - huntington57@yahoo.com (he has been Daniel's neighbour and his brothers have hung out with their boys for a number of years)

Donations are still going through:
Daniel Riley Fund
c/o The Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration
PO Box 1000
Vail, CO, 81658