Sgt. Eddie Ryan
Sgt. Eddie Ryan

Injured Marine greeted by hurricane of love

By Jeremiah Horrigan Times Herald-Record
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Ellenville -On a bright, clear day that was unimaginable 16 months ago, Marine Sgt. Eddie Ryan came home to Ellenville. Eddie Ryan was so seriously injured by friendly fire in Iraq those long months ago that doctors held little hope of his surviving, let alone recovering. But Ryan left the healing confines of Helen Hayes Hospital yesterday morning, at the head of a rolling entourage of motorcycling friends and supporters and strangers who, like thousands of people across the mid-Hudson region, have been moved by Ryan's battle to overcome his injuries and resume living a normal life.

Though other battles - public and private - still loom for Eddie Ryan, yesterday was a day of peace and deep satisfaction for him and his family. Ryan was at the eye of a swirling hurricane of love and affection yesterday, surrounded by the men and women who had helped him win his battle to get home. His uncles cracked jokes with him. Girls lined up for kisses. Men wiped tears from their eyes. His grandmother gravely stroked his face. The face of the man who sat in the midst of such unalloyed pride and pleasure sometimes flared into the face of a boy, eyes sparkling with happiness, like a kid caught in the fresh morning light of Christmas.

His mother, Angela, stayed close by him, as she has for every day of the 16 months he's been stateside. She saw the spacious new home that's been created with the money and labor of friends and strangers. Yesterday was her first visit home since Eddie arrived in the United States.

Asked the obvious question, she said she was fine, for an equally obvious reason: "I'm home and so's Eddie. He's fine, so I'm fine." What kind of man is Sgt. Eddie Ryan? His father, Chris, told this story: He leaned in close to speak to his son as he sat in his wheelchair. "'You know what, Eddie?' I said. 'We're going to get you up and walking.' And you know what he said back to me? 'No,' he said. 'Up and running.' " His father stood proudly corrected.

Sixteen months ago, the Marine sniper was hit in the head by two .30-caliber rounds from a tank. Two of his fellow Marines risked their lives to save him. For six months, the family was told he'd been the victim of enemy fire. That turned out to be a lie. Chris Ryan intends to get an explanation for that lie. He wants a congressional investigation into why things happened the way they did, and he wants the Marines who risked their lives to save his son given the credit and the medals they deserve. But those battles are for another day. For now, it was time to ask the family's friends and well-wishers to go.

A new chapter in the lives of the Ryan family was about to begin, a chapter that will contain battles large and small, battles of adjustment, battles with bureaucrats, battles that will draw on the family's seemingly endless reserves of strength. Forty-five minutes after his homecoming, quiet fell on the rooms where Sgt. Eddie Ryan's life will start all over again.

This article appeared in The Times Herald-Record on 09/2006

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