NEVADA – The holidays may be stressful for combat veterans, and a local guy reminds us that many of vets are in need.
“Even though the war is done, the wounds do not heal,” said Smith Valley resident Dylan Gray.
Gray has firsthand knowledge of this. He was injured in 2007 while on his third deployment with the Marines when the Humvee he was driving collided with an explosion.
“I’m glad to be alive,” Gray said. “And when I returned back and woke up in a hospital, there was enough of my fellow service members who didn’t get to wake up in a hospital. And I didn’t care what it was at the time since I was alive and could see. I was able to reclaim custody of my small son. And thus everything else would fall into place.”
That includes figuring out how to perform the things he used to do without both of his legs.
“You have to adjust to things, overcome them, and simply find a different way of doing things,” Gray added. “But life goes on; you just have to be determined to do it.”
That’s when Semper Fi & America’s Fund, a non-profit that has helped over 29,000 veterans, comes in. Everything from financial assistance to counselors and other valuable resources is available.
“I’ve gotten grants, they’ve helped with sporting events and stuff that I’ve had to do. “Anything I’ve ever needed help with in the 15 years I’ve been an amputee, they’ve been there for me,” Gray continued.
He also competed in snowboarding, finishing 11th in the world in snowboard cross. He subsequently retired to attend college, where he acquired a degree and invented a new type of prosthetic.
“Basically, keeping your center of gravity, simply to give you your regular motion back, which helps tremendously down the slopes,” Gray noted.
Instead of the usual fixed-unit prosthetic, it replicates the full range of motion of an ankle joint. And this new item might be utilized for anything other than snowboarding.
“I have a lot of legs right now. I have an entire closet dedicated to them. “There’s one for every activity,” Gray explained. “I’m attempting to reduce and design things that reduce how many of those I can so I can switch around activities without always switching legs.”
He’s currently going through the patent process and hopes to have his firm completely operational by this time next year.
“I was kind of selfish at start, simply trying to address my own problems,” Gray said. “However, there are many other people out there who have the same problems, so they’ll have a product that works for them.”
He now intends to return to competitive snowboarding and compete in the next Paralympic Games.
“Yeah I retired out of it in 2018, saying I wouldn’t go back until I was racing on my own snowboarding leg. That is the goal.”
Semper Fi and America’s Fund are sponsoring a campaign through the end of the year, with the Bob and Renee Parsons Foundation matching any donations up to $10 million. More information and donations can be made at www.thefund.org.
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