Meet Ryan Lynn who served in the Army in the Stryker Calvary Regiment and was deployed for a total of 15 months in Iraq with a specialty in combat.
“Having a combat [specialty], there is no room for weakness, no room to be vulnerable, because when that happens, people die. The hard part is being able to leave that behind and not bring it into your family life.”
When he began Pathways, Ryan acted “a little cocky from being in the Army, thinking I was Mr. Tough Guy.” On the inside, though, he felt weak from beating himself down, and his heart had hardened towards others. His Iraq deployment had put him in a rut and he was afraid to break out of the comfortable hole he had dug for himself.
He realized he was “being a coward” and had been running from his life: his duty, responsibility, and most of all—his family. He came home angry and an “emotional wreck.”
“I think a lot of people need to recognize that when a soldier makes the decision to serve, so does their family,” Ryan says.
Many families don’t know what it really means to be a military family until they’re already going through it. “Service members and their families not only deal with the everyday rigors of life, but throw in relocation, deployment, expectations, death, and injury. That’s a whole lot of stuff to manage, and most of us don’t.”
The Military Family Fund gives soldiers and their families the opportunity to heal from the intense challenges of military life.
During his Pathways training, Ryan re-discovered the vision for his life and future. He realized the value and power of connection. “Connecting with that many people and realizing that we are not alone in life, but you’ll never know that until you start sharing your story and life with other people.”
As a result of his Pathways training, Ryan’s world has changed dramatically. He feels confident, worthy and in control. He has dared to be vulnerable and feel love. He realized that, “Feeling love is all I needed. Feeling it from people, but more importantly, feeling it for myself.”
Feeling that love is at the heart of the contract he earned: “I am a strong, humble, compassionate, fearless man, with an unbreakable relationship with God.”
Since Ryan benefited from the Military & Military Families Fund, he felt compelled to give back to Pathways and to the fund in a big way.
And give back, he did. In a matter of days, he worked with Debbie Wright and his LGL Jill Kunkel to orchestrate a service walk. The 5K walk was held on February 26, 2011, at Trinity Park in Fort Worth.
Thirty-five people participated in the service walk. Word spread quickly, and people throughout the Pathways community donated to the cause.
“I got a lot out of that experience. It was awesome to see what a small group of people who get together for a cause can achieve.”
Ryan’s new-found passion is helping Pathways raise money, and he is working on a website through which anyone can donate funds to send people through Pathways. Ryan would also like to do the 5K service walk annually. His philosophy is that the more money that is raised, the more families Pathways can reach. He never wants the military fund to not be able to help families like his.
In total, Ryan and the rest of Class 284 hope to raise over $20,000 once corporate matching funds are received in June. They are donating this money to Pathways for use in the Military & Military Families Fund, the Teen & Family Camp fund, and the Families of Special Needs Children (Kayden Joy) Fund.
“Donating to the Military fund is a small price to pay for what service members and their families pay on a daily basis. [Pathways] has changed my life forever. I am able to be the husband and father that I am supposed to be. The fact that my kids’ lives look different now that I have gone through Pathways is priceless.”
Ryan continues to make this true. His training didn’t stop when he graduated. In April he attended the Empowered Parenting class and learned even more tools for communicating and connecting with his family. He and his wife have been amazed how one weekend of parent training could change the dynamics between him and his children. He earned the parent covenant “I am a faithful, reliable dad.” That’s a long way from the angry soldier that originally came home to the family.
Watch Ryan's coming home video