Air Force Staff Sgt. Douglas Ryan, an instructor at the Naval Explosive Ordnance Disposal School in Niceville has been awarded the Purple Heart for injuries sustained while in Afghanistan in 2010.
Under the flagpole at the EOD Memorial on a sweltering sunny afternoon, Navy Capt. William Noel, Commanding Officer of the EOD School, pins the Purple Heart on Staff Sgt. Ryan as his parents, wife and young son look on, "This is to certify that the President of the United States of America, authorized by General George Washington August 7th 1782 has awarded the Purple Heart to Douglas R. Ryan for wounds received in action."
He receives the honor because on the morning of March 18th 2010 in an area near "Mazar-e Sharif", a northern city in Afghanistan Sgt. Ryan’s vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device more commonly known as an IED. He was driving through a Taliban stronghold in the Helmand Province during an attempt to clear a route for coalition forces and supplies. Sgt. Ryan says he values the award because the operation was dangerous but essential, "For me this medal is a reminder of how precious and fragile life is."
The blast hit directly under his seat jolting him upward causing a concussion. Despite his injuries, Sgt. Ryan conducted a post blast analysis immediately after the explosion ensuring the safety of his team members by looking for evidence of other explosive devices. Sgt. Ryan says he knows the future is not guaranteed but let’s his faith guide him along the way, then and still today, "One of the many lessons that I have learned in during my military experience is that I have to be intentional, there needs to be a purpose behind your actions whether it is working on an IED, being a husband father, or serving the lord. This medal is a reminder that I need to be intentional in all that I do because you are not promised tomorrow."
Sgt. Ryan joined the Air Force almost 9 years ago because he wanted to serve his country and save lives, but now says his focus is on making the world a better place for his son, " But now with a son it’s changed a little as far as hoping to make this country better for him and for his kids."
Sgt. Ryan says the award has significance for his family as well, since they patiently endured the uncertainty of his deployments. His wife, Bekah Lynn says she’s extremely proud of her husband and says it’s important for people to see the hard work and dedication that not only goes into being a service member overseas, but also a military family, " It means the world that everybody else gets to see what I already see. And to see him be recognized because he is so humble and no one would ever know what we know so we’re very grateful. "
More information about the Purple Heart and other recipients is available at PurpleHeart.org.