People: Road To Recovery

Reprinted from PN/Paraplegia News January 2019

Handcycling 130 miles a day for 13 straight days may seem daunting, but Ricky Raley did it last August. Of course, he had plenty of motivation to keep going

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The 33-year-old Westfield, Ind., resident began his trek at the 9/11 Memorial in New York City and finished in Pinellas Park, Fla., to raise awareness and funds for Boot Campaign. The campaign offers personalized treatment and training for veterans to combat the effects of traumatic brain injury (TBI), post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain, self-medication and insomnia.

Raley served as an infantryman in the Indiana Army National Guard as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom and sustained a mild TBI from an improvised explosive device. Just six months after returning home from Iraq in 2009, he sustained a T11/12 spinal-cord injury in a truck accident.

Raley says he initially took his injury fairly well, but it was a bit tougher on his family.

“My wife [Quynhmy] was four months pregnant when I got hurt,” he says. “That was probably what made it easier for me when I got hurt, was knowing that it wasn’t about me anymore ‘cause I was having a kid. So I didn’t have to focus on it right then.”

However, he hit a low point by the winter of 2017, and his wife gave him an ultimatum. 

“She just told me, ‘You have an option to go through the Boot Campaign program or me and [now-9-year-old son] Pierson are gonna move out,’ ” Raley says. “When we struggle with mental health stuff, we consume everyone around us. We don’t just hurt ourselves. We’re struggling and we hurt everyone around us. So once she kind of brought that to light that they were done and I realized how much I was hurting them, it wasn’t OK.”

Raley completed Boot Campaign’s health and wellness program last June.

“Seeing the look on my son’s face, like he could tell,” he says. “He was 8 when I came home from the program, and he could tell as an 8-year-old how different I was. Our relationship grew, and with my wife’s relationship, I finally felt like I was part of the family. And if this program was able to do that, then I needed to find a way to get more veterans in this program.”


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People: Road To Recovery


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