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When Army Veteran David woke up paralyzed after his accident in 2015, he knew he had “come back” for a reason. What he didn’t know is that thanks to his injury, he would travel the world, inspiring other people with disabilities through adaptive sports.

Prior to his injury, David served as a military police officer in the U.S. Army Reserves for 26 years and had deployed to the Middle East both during Operation Desert Storm and to Iraq in the years following September 11, 2001.

One day, while riding with a friend through the Santa Cruz Mountains in California in December 2015, David hit a pothole, skidded off the road, and ended up dangling by his feet off a roadside cliff.  His riding buddy called 911 and stood by his unconscious friend for several minutes before David woke up, still dangling.

“He told me, ‘Don't move, you're okay.’ And he was crying because he said, ‘You were dead,’” David said. “And then I told him, ‘Well, I'm paralyzed and I'm back to do good.’ I knew that I had crossed over and I agreed to come back paralyzed. I agreed to come back to do good.”

David was rushed to the hospital and woke up from a medically induced coma five days later. On Christmas Eve, he was transferred to the VA hospital in Palo Alto and began the long recovery process.

“One of PVA’s service officers came in and registered us with the PVA. I really had no clue what it was,” David said. “PVA helped me with my Social Security disability, making sure that my temporary benefits and stuff like that were coming to me. They made sure that I was registered in the system so I could get the medical equipment I needed.”

While recovering in the hospital, he spent his days in the gym and working with a recreational therapist who encouraged him to attend an upcoming winter sports clinic.

After attending several winter sports clinics and competing in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games, David fell in love with winter sports – despite living in Tampa, Florida. He began attending winter sports camps all over the United States, before seeing a friend training for the U.S. Para Bobsled Team.

“At that point, I think I'd been injured for about seven years,” David said. “I was doing a lot of stuff with the VA and PVA, and I was just going to the gym and traveling and stuff, but I wanted to do something else. I was just like, ‘Okay, what's my next adventure?’”

David ended up attending a bobsledding camp alongside other paralyzed Veterans in Lake Placid, New York. Despite his lack of experience, David found the sport exhilarating. With some guidance from seasoned bobsled athletes, David’s performance and confidence improved.

“It's a little scary from time to time. You have to just grab hold of that fear and quell it for a time being and just focus on where you're at on the track, what turn you're in, and knowing what to do in that turn,” David said. “It's definitely a sport that is exhilarating, terrifying, and all that in one. So you really have to be focused. You really have to be in the now and know where you're at and what you're doing and when to do it.”

In December 2022, Lake Placid hosted the Para Bobsleigh World Cup, and David was invited to participate.

“It was kind of terrifying, but I was also getting put on the world stage,” David said. “I now had the opportunity to possibly compete in the World Cup, I had to make two clean runs. So they let me go down, and I was able to do that, and I got to compete in the World Cup, and then I was able to get on the team.”

Since joining the U.S. Para Bobsled Team, David has traveled all over the world, especially throughout Europe: Austria, Switzerland, Norway, France, and more. He says he’s far from being the best, but right now he’s focused on learning new tracks and new techniques.

Despite all the time spent training, traveling and competing, David continues to run his own alternative healing business, providing red light therapy, cryotherapy, hyperbaric oxygen therapy and more to people dealing with long-term injuries like himself. He is also civically minded and active, serving on PVA's government relations team in the Florida Gulf Coast Chapter and on Congressman Gus Bilirakis's Advisory Board to advocate on behalf of Veterans and people with disabilities.

David tries to use his experiences to provide insights to advocacy groups and legislators handling Veterans’ issues – issues like his retirement benefits not kicking in until he’s 59 years old, which is not for another 7 years and will be 17 years after his injury.

“I've run into retirement issues myself that not only affect me, but solving them would also benefit other Veterans a lot,” David said. “I've fallen through a lot of cracks with a lot of different things. I guess I found every crack that there was in the military and kept falling through them. I know that we might be a small number of people, but it's just not right.”

David says no matter what he’s facing, he will continue to stay active and help Veterans, his peers, and his community in whatever ways he can.

“I served in the US Army for almost 26 years, and just being active like that, and then all of a sudden it's all kind of taken from you, so you look for other avenues to continue being active,” David said. “I just wanted to stay active, and I wanted to keep my mind straight and not just be a bump on the log. I wanted to keep moving and not get lazy.”

If you would like to help advocate for Veterans, visit our PVA Action Force.

To attend an adaptive sports events or get involved with the National Veterans Wheelchair Games, visit our website for more information.


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