In keeping with tradition, we release our June NFM Salute on this day to honor another hero and to learn what Memorial Day means to them. Please take a moment to hear the story of disabled veteran Ryan Garrison, Staff Sergeant (Ret.), U.S.A.F.

Full Transcript is Below:

– It’s time for our June 2022 NFM salute. I’m NFM TV’s Greg Sher. We release this salute with heavy hearts on this Memorial Day and remind everyone that the national moment of remembrance is an annual event that asks Americans, wherever they are, at 3:00 PM, local time on Memorial Day, to pause for a duration of one minute, to remember those who have died in military service to the United States. Retired Air Force Sergeant Ryan Garrison survived three deployments, the last of which left him 80% disabled. Ryan has vowed to turn his negative into a positive having founded Valor Therapeutics, a nonprofit aimed at supporting those who suffered trauma while defending the United States. Ryan joins us from his home just outside of Dayton, Ohio. Ryan, thank you for joining us and thank you for your service.

– Thank you, sir.

– Before we get started, reflect on Memorial Day and what it means to you.

– Um, starting to get a little emotional. Memorial Day is real serious for me. I have a lot of family in the military and I have a lot of friends. I’ve lost a few friends I was deployed with, during deployment, and due to effects after deployment. And just taking the time to remember them means a lot to me. There’s a quote from General Patton that I always liked, it said, “It is foolish and wrong to mourn for men who have died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.” And to sign that line, when you enlist or commission, it means that you’re gonna go out into the world, you’re gonna defend the country, and you don’t know what’s gonna happen. And not a lot of people exist that can do that.

– Well, you did it. And we are so grateful. And so did your family members, a great deal of them. Both grandfathers, four uncles, a brother, and a cousin. So, did you know at a young age you would be following in their footsteps?

– I always had the ambition to, and when I got older, I kind of started leaning towards sports and I went to college for sports medicine. But, when 9/11 happened, I knew all bets were off and that I had to do what I was supposed to do and go enlist.

– And that was a calling for you, that moment. Where were you on that day? And what were the emotions that were running through your body?

– I woke up, my brother was home on leave from his training and he’s like, one of the towers got hit. We kind of realized what was going on and he was getting notifications that he had to get back to his base. Just kind of a kick in the gut. I didn’t tell my folks, but I knew pretty much then, I was gonna be dropping outta school.

– Incredible that that would move you to do that and you ended up serving three different stints overseas. You were first stationed at Travis Air Force base in California. Then, you went on these three deployments, one to Pakistan, one to Baghdad, one to Iraq. You did a lot of logistical type work, getting the troops ready to fight. What does that entail?

– I was always deployed with the Army or the Marines doing logistics for them. So, I was always getting their supplies, getting them what they needed, to send them outside the wire to go do their missions. And then for some of them, we were helping prep airdrops. For the guys in the mountains searching for Bin Laden, we would pack up the pallets and they’d put the parachutes on, load the plane and they’d go airdrop ’em.

– Did they ever come close? To getting Bin Laden?

– I think they did. I have a couple theories on that, but that’s a long story.

– That’s a story for another day, huh? We know eventually they got him, but I was wondering, that was sometime later. I mentioned at the outset here that you are a disabled Veteran. What happened in Iraq?

– 2006, I was walking a cargo load, prepping for a plane that was gonna come in in about two hours. The insurgents, they paid a sheep herder to shoot a RPG and the RPG hit the cab of our vehicle and the percussion knocked me off. I fell off the back of it and fractured two discs in my back.

– Lucky to be alive, right?

– Yes.

– So, I know that a part of the 80% disabled tag that you have from the VA comes from obviously the physical toll that it took on you and your back problems you’ve had, but also PTSD.

– Yes.

– So, how does that show up for you? And how are you coping with that?

– Even though I knew I was in the States and I was inside of a military base, there’s always that part in the back of my head, I was thinking, that there was somebody out there ready to just fire another rocket at us. And that constant thought in the back of my head. And it would show up in anxiety, at night I would have dreams about being over there.

– How are you doing now with that? Is that something you still have to to fight through? Or do you have it under control?

– I like to say I have it under control. I still do therapy. I did a lot of talk therapy, still have a therapy now. I got a PTSD mobility dog from Warrior Canine Connection. And I always… Sorry. I always say that he saved my life because with him, he alerts me to anxiety cues, my knees bounce, my hands jiggle. He comes up and nudges me, lets me know that I’m getting ready to have one. He wakes me up from dreams. So, with my therapy dog, I’ve taken a lot less medication. And nowadays, my dreams are once a month. My anxiety attacks are maybe once a week, if that.

– Glad you’re doing better. I wanna talk about when you came back to the motherland because you continued in your capacity of supporting, instead of troops now, supporting U.S. presidents, which I’m completely fascinated about. Tell us about your work supporting Air Force One and Air Force Two.

– I went to Andrew’s Air Force base and was assigned to special airlift missions where we took care of the president, all the way down to secretaries, making sure that the distinguished visitors got in and out.

– That’s amazing. And I know you worked for President Bush for two years and then after that, President Obama for three, and you got to meet the president. You got to meet President Obama. We’re looking at a picture of that right now. What did he say to you in that moment?

– It was my last mission and they let his staff know this is my last mission. And he came up and shook my hand and said, “Thank you for all the support for the last five years.” And asked me where I was moving on to. I was completely surprised ’cause I didn’t know it was gonna happen. So, it was kind of like that nervous, like, I forgot where I was going. But, you know, shook his hand. Very, very nice to do that.

– Well you’ve turned your attention to a different mission now. Valor Therapeutics. It’s your nonprofit. We want to talk to you about that. We’re going to be donating $2,500 to Valor Therapeutics. We see you got the shirt on right there.

– Yes sir.

– I know it means a lot to you. Tell everybody about it and how they can support it.

– We’re a nonprofit that helps Veterans. We call it complementary therapy. My wife is a music therapist. She worked at Bethesda helping Veterans coming back and she was helping them get back into the fight. And we also provide art therapy and yoga. So, we’re trying to do complementary therapies. You can only go so far by talking, and around here, it’s very hard to find a therapist. I know people that spend months looking for an actual therapist and then, once they get that therapist, they can only see ’em about once a month. Mental health is so important to me and all the Veterans I know that are fighting it.

– I love the mission statement that I found on your website. “We support Active Duty, Veterans and First Responders and Retirees, as well as their families and caregivers who have experienced trauma connected to their time defending the United States.” How powerful. This has been an incredible sit down with you. Retired Air Force staff Sergeant Ryan Garrison. We appreciate your time. We appreciate your sentiment surrounding Memorial Day. And of course, we appreciate your service. God bless you.

– Thank you, sir.

– I’m NFM TV’s Greg Sher. We’ll see you again, next time.