We all remember where we were the morning of 9/11. None of us were ever the same after that day but some of us carry a much greater burden than the rest of us. Ryan is one of those people, although you would never know it from his enthusiasm for life and his generosity of spirit. It’s hard to imagine that for him it wasn’t always this way:
I am more than a United States combat veteran with PTSD, anxiety, and depression who suffers from alcoholism and insomnia.
From my earliest memories I can remember, as a child I was proud to be an American. I would grab a rake, pretend it was a guitar, and scream out Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.”
I knew at a young age I wanted to be a hero like my Uncle Donald, the city firefighter. After high school graduation in 1999, I was off to San Antonio, Texas for bootcamp. Next came an 18-week firefighter academy and I was living my dream. All was great in my life and I couldn’t be happier. Then 9/11 happened which changed my happy life forever.
The orders came down to my unit that we were going to be deployed to a war zone in Iraq/Kuwait. When the going got tough I excelled, and, at times, had clarity in the middle of warfare. I was proud to serve my country and asked for an extension to stay longer. I didn’t have any children at this time, so I felt it was my duty to stay overseas.
I felt like the real war started when I returned home from deployment. I began to drink alcohol heavily and had little regard for my own life. As the drinking got worse the arrests and court cases began to pile up. When I would stop drinking, the nightmares, anxiety and depression got so bad I would try to take my own life. I could not keep a job and had a very hard time functioning in the civilian world. It was one detox after another and countless numbers of programs at the VA. I was in the eye of the tornado and my life was a perfect mess. Not even the birth of my beautiful daughter, Reagann Lilly, could slow me down.
For a short time I felt normal again, but this was just the calm before the storm. I relapsed again and, thank God, had another failed suicide. I needed help and needed guidance immediately.
That guidance came at a combat veterans’ retreat in East Dummerston, Vermont. I am forever grateful for Dr. Anne Black and her program, The Warrior Connection. It truly gave me my life back.
I will always be a veteran, but my military experience does not define me. I am a caring, loving grandson, son, godfather, dad, and friend. My daughter is a mini me and has my sense of humor. My best friend is a five-month old Great Dane named Ronan. I bought my own home across the street from my parents where I grew up. My mother, Susan, is my hero. I go to Cambridge College and study human resources. I am living life to the fullest and never let my disabilities hold me down. I am sober!
My passion in life is helping other veterans with the same issues I struggled with. I am currently a mentor for The Warrior Connection and run many events for the program. I enjoy my family and want to have another child soon.
I am so grateful for the men and women who serve in the armed forces to protect this great nation! Amen!
The Warrior Connection (TWC) provides residential retreats and services to veterans and their families to heal the invisible injuries incurred while in uniform. All TWC programs and services are open to veterans of all eras. Thanks to donors, sponsors, and volunteers, retreats are offered at no cost and TWC will arrange travel from all 50 states.
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