From Service to Serenity: Ryan's Journey - Warriors & Quiet Waters
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From Service to Serenity: Ryan's Journey

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For decades, I've carried the weight of my experiences like battle-worn trophies, collecting them like heavy stones in a rucksack. I’ve been conditioned to bear the load alone, relying on the unyielding grit instilled by my years of military service. But my experience with Warriors & Quiet Waters (WQW) revealed a powerful truth: there's unshakable strength in unburdening that rucksack. WQW has equipped me with the tools to shed the weight of my past, and accepting their help has been nothing short of transformative.

A desire to save lives led me to enlist in the U.S. Air Force in 1996. Over the last 27 years, I’ve been privileged to save others, first as a fearless firefighter and now as a Master Sergeant Pararescue superintendent. My role in the military has allowed me to impact countless individuals. My teams have hiked, driven, helicoptered, and parachuted into civilian search and rescue missions or military combat missions behind enemy lines to rescue those in dire need. I have served alongside the most prestigious warriors, aiding SEAL teams, Green Berets, and Marine Raiders.

Serving on such an elite team instilled in me an unwavering sense of purpose, direction, and structure. In the Air Force, we were more than just teammates; we were brothers bound by an unspoken pact that every day, everyone was coming home. My comrades entrusted me with their lives, and it's this deep bond that I fear may be irreplaceable in the civilian world.

As my retirement from the military nears, my predominant fear is that such a sense of purpose won’t translate beyond my military service. The thought of retirement feels like walking through a whiteout, with no familiar tracks to follow.

In 2021, six months after losing one of my closest comrades to suicide, I came to Quiet Waters Ranch. There, I broke down and cried openly in the company of fellow Warriors. Being outside allowed me to breathe a little easier and not have so much noise in my mind. After hearing my struggle, WQW’s CEO Colonel Brian Gilman urged me to apply for the inaugural Built for More program.

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Returning to the Quiet Waters Ranch this past August to participate in Built for More, had an instantaneous and deep impact on my life. Journal entries and guided discussions helped me unearth my new purpose. Those fireside dialogues in the mountains, shared with other veterans grappling with similar struggles, revealed the truth: I thought I had been saving others all these years, but I was truly attempting to rescue myself. Built for More couldn't have come at a more pivotal time. It gifted me that epiphany, illuminating the path ahead.

Warriors & Quiet Waters has given me the time and space to cultivate what a meaningful life means for me going forward. My hope is that other veterans will have this same life-changing experience as I’ve been gifted.

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