Meet Sgt. Eddie Ryan. His story is one of strength, bravery, and resilience, traits which perfectly describe not only this Marine, but his parents and caregivers Chris and Angela, as well. Because together, they overcame hardships. Together, they witnessed miracles. Together, they made the impossible … possible.
At twelve-years-old, Eddie knew he wanted to be a Marine, a desire solidified by the terrorist attack on 9/11. He bravely answered the call to service in 2002, joining the Marine Corps and serving as a Machine Gunner during his first two deployments, and as a sniper on the third. In 2005, Eddie’s life changed forever. Six weeks into his tour in Husaybah, Iraq, he sustained two gunshots to his head during a mission.
At Balad Air Base in Iraq, a neurosurgeon removed one bullet from Eddie’s head, the other bullet having gone straight through his skull, and his parents received devastating news: their son was not expected to survive. Once Chris and Angela arrived at Eddie’s bedside at a hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, they prepared to say goodbye.
But Eddie wasn’t done fighting yet.
Defying the odds, he soon stabilized enough to be transferred to National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, MD, where Eddie’s family first met Semper Fi & America’s Fund staff and volunteers. Right away, The Fund stepped in to help, first supporting Chris and Angela at Eddie’s beside. For 6 weeks, Eddie remained in a medically induced coma, but after the doctors performed a cranioplasty and reconstructed his skull out of acrylic, he woke up.
Back home in Rockland County, NY, Eddie recovered at the Helen Hayes Rehabilitation Center while Chris and Angela learned the skills to care for their son – Eddie had severe Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), both cognitive and mobility issues, and because the high risk of removing it, shrapnel remained in both Eddie’s forehead and his left eye, causing permanent blindness in that eye.
But Eddie, strengthened by the support from his family and resources of The Fund, faced these challenges head on.
As Eddie had limited speech abilities and was in a wheelchair with only the use of his left arm, The Fund assisted him with weekly therapy sessions and provided Eddie’s parents with family support grants, an adaptive van for transportation, respite care, and most recently a housing grant, which allowed them to adapt their home to provide the best care for Eddie.
“The Fund always checked on my well-being and helped a lot financially,” Eddie said, grateful for the love he feels. “That’s great medicine in itself.”
Throughout his entire recovery, Eddie’s biggest motivators have been his family, fellow Marines, friends, and community. In 2010, Eddie competed in the Marine Corps Marathon with another Marine pushing him – a very proud moment not only for Eddie’s family but for all who were watching and cheering him on from the sidelines!
Ever since, Eddie continues to defy the odds, both physically and mentally. The doctors once told his parents that it was unlikely Eddie would recognize them, if and when he woke from his coma. But now, Eddie’s memory is incredible, one of many miracles in his life, and he doesn’t have any plans to slow down but rather work hard in therapy and someday, be able to walk again.
And The Fund will be there for Eddie and his family every step of the way, standing firm in our promise to support our combat wounded, critically ill, and catastrophically injured service members and their caregivers, from the first moment we meet through a lifetime. Inspired by their endless strength, incredible bravery, and unyielding resilience, Eddie, Chris, and Angela serve as our example of what it means to be a family – that with unconditional love and support, the impossible becomes possible.