You know how some people always have an encouraging word? And they stay upbeat no matter what happens? Well, if you ever need some inspiration, Dario Diaz (a disabled Navy veteran with an E-4 rank) is the guy to talk to. Here’s his story …
After serving in Vietnam, Diaz returned home and started a plumbing business with his dad in the mid-1970s. Life hummed along for quite a few years, and then in 2001, he was in a car accident. A few weeks later, he started to feel a twitch in his leg, and it turned out that the accident had stretched his spinal cord. A private doctor diagnosed him with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), a condition that weakens the nervous system and impacts physical function. He decided to go to the VA (Veterans Affairs) for a second opinion, and the doctor there concurred, marking the diagnosis as “service connected,” which means they attribute the injury to the fact that he was in the military.
Diaz’ condition worsened over the years. Today, he can’t stand without holding onto something, and he uses a scooter to get around.
He was first introduced to the world of accessible vans when he bought one from Bussani Mobility nearly 10 years ago for his mom, who had MS. Eventually, he needed the vehicle for himself as well.
Accessible Van Means Everything
Now, Diaz drives a converted accessible 2017 Toyota Sienna, paid for by the VA. The van has a six-way seat that allows him to easily transfer in and drive from the original seat. And as he says, the vehicle has “a lot of goodies in it.”
Always active in his life, Diaz used to race motorcycles, ride horses, and the like. These days, he goes out with his buddies from the military, most of whom are in their sixties and still going strong.
“If I didn’t have this van, I’d be in trouble,” said Diaz. “My buddies would pick me up and drive me around, but I prefer to do things on my own, like I do and have always done. This van is equivalent to my being able to walk and jump up and down. It means everything to me.”
He went on to explain that, even for a veteran who can’t drive, having an accessible van is so important. It allows their family to get them out of the house, take them to a movie, or out to eat.
And for those family members who may be in their last days, “you want to shower them with as much joy and opportunity as you can,” he said.
Have a Purpose in Life … And See the Good in People
Not only has Diaz found a way to deal with his physical disability, but he has used the happenings in his life to grow personally and find his purpose. Namely, he offers a powerful Christian ministry specifically for men.
About his personal inspiration to start the ministry, he says: “Jesus was a fisherman of men. And I have a ‘heart for men.’ I have an interest to talk to men about the problems all men face. I conquered a lot of things that I used to do, in a Biblical and loving way, so I can talk to men and break through to them. In order to do that, I need my van and my scooter to get me around.
“I’m happier now than when I was moving around before having a disability. And I have a testimony. Everything hinges on the fact that I do have a disability. Thank God that ALS didn’t affect my cognitive ability.”
Diaz described how he approaches the everyday: “I savor life. I savor people, more than before. I go birdwatching with my wife. And I savor all the good that God created. And I don’t judge. If you’re an alcoholic, I love you. You’re being yourself. I’ll say things to encourage you, but I focus on the good. My son says, “My dad always sees the good in people.’”
He had his faith before serving in the military and experiencing that car accident, but he proclaims that he has much more faith now.
When asked one thing that he most wants to share with others who are living with a disability, Diaz said: “Press on. There are so many things available to help, like a grip bar in a handicapped bathroom or a chair that takes you up the stairs. And if you have a family member that becomes disabled — like grandpa starts falling and needs a scooter — you do the research for them. And press on.”
Sounds like good advice for all of us these days. Thank you, Dario, for being a shining example of all that’s good. Let’s all press on, whatever that may mean in our individual lives.
To find out more about Dario’s Christian ministry for men, contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.