David W. Riley, National Commander

Unsung heroes

After I was first injured, I couldn’t  imagine living a normal life. And in fact, I haven’t—it’s been far greater than what I ever expected. This is why words cannot adequately express the honor, privilege and joy it has meant to me to serve as your national commander.

As a quadruple amputee often wearing a clothing item that identifies me as a DAV member, I am stopped many times by well-meaning citizens who thank me for my service.

However, no one thinks to thank my wife, Yvonne, for what she’s sacrificed. Both of our lives were changed forever when my limbs were amputated. Her dreams, her goals and her hopes for the future were altered when she stayed by my side those many years ago and has faithfully remained there ever since.

Yvonne willingly and without hesitation stepped into her role as my primary caregiver, yet she and thousands of others in the nation are being denied the support our government gives post-9/11 caregivers.

These unsung heroes give of themselves willingly every day to support the veterans they love. There are no days off, and in many cases, there’s no support and no training.

This is why it remains so important that we keep fighting for lawmakers to pass legislation that would expand the VA’s comprehensive caregiver benefits program to severely injured veterans of all eras.

The program provides training, peer support, respite care, health benefits and a financial stipend to family caregivers.

It’s not just the right and fair thing to do; in the end, family caregivers save taxpayers money by keeping the veteran at home and out of institutional care and, most importantly, by helping give veterans a higher quality of life.

Please consider visiting DAV CAN (Commander’s Action Network) at davcan.org, and tell your elected representatives that you and 1.3 million fellow DAV members expect them to do the right thing for veterans and their caregivers.

Being a caregiver does not get easier with time. If you doubt that, ask the spouses of Vietnam or Korean War era veterans. The sacrifices they have made over their lifetimes are incalculable.

I’m proud of all we have done during my term as your commander. If there is one part of my legacy I hope will live on, it’s that our efforts for caregivers will have resulted in recognition for the contributions of people like Yvonne through meaningful change to support them. So many disabled veterans wouldn’t be here without these unsung heroes—our caregivers.

Thank you for placing your trust in me to represent our wounded, injured and ill veterans. In my mind, there’s no finer group of men and women on Earth, and I’m as proud to stand with all of you today as I was when I joined DAV 20 years ago.


If you want to find out more about the National Commander, you can find his biography here.