New Beginning for Iraq War Veteran in Sarasota
Ryan Harris honorably served in Iraq for six and a half years as an indirect fire infantryman. On Tuesday, July 9th, Streets of Paradise Inc. was pleased to offer him move-in assistance. The Streets of Paradise team worked at transforming an empty apartment into a comfortable home that Ryan will find conducive to raising his two sons.
Linda McFarland, a Streets of Paradise volunteer said, “I’ve seen so many vets that have suffered trauma from their experience in conflict. Seeing a veteran like Ryan at a place ready to take half custody of his boys and move into an apartment – it was a beautiful move-in.”
We carefully selected every piece of furniture from our climate-controlled warehouse, which included beds, a dining room table and chairs, a TV cabinet, couch, bedding, kitchenware, and towels all with their favorite colors in mind. “Eventually I hope to buy furniture… but, I am so grateful for all of this; now my kids can settle into a home, and this stuff is really nice,” says Ryan.
Ryan is a third-generation combat veteran. He enlisted willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, and for that, he has our utmost respect and continual support. After the intensity of life in a combat zone, Ryan found re-acclimating to civilian life challenging. He battled with Combat Induced Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) characterized by the persistent re-experiencing of traumatic events and a sense of detachment from others. Also, he sustained a permanent noise-induced hearing loss from a perforation in his eardrum, resultant from being close to a mortar system and continuous firing of rifles on the range. His hearing loss occurred despite the use of earplugs. “My adjustment to civilian life was harsh, my edges were rough when I got back,” says Ryan.
He found himself spending time evaluating his assumptions of the world as he knew it before his deployment. Ryan appreciated the vital role hyper vigilance had played in keeping him alive in Iraq; however, it exhausted him in civilian life. He felt on edge; unable to relax, which became intolerable. His marriage began unraveling as he simultaneously battled his demons, anticipating danger around every corner. His challenges were further compounded by difficulty effectively communicating his feelings.
Fortunately for Ryan, his father became a pillar of emotional support, offering advice and sharing his own experiences after his return from combat in Vietnam. Despite his best intentions, Ryan began realizing that he carried the war home. He sought help and began learning effective coping strategies to mitigate his challenges.
Ryan became proactive in regards to job reentry by enrolling in college and then graduate school; acquiring marketable skills for the competitive workforce. When we met, Ryan had recently graduated with his Master’s in Business Administration (MBA). He credits going back to school as a significant factor, which helped him appreciate all of his life experiences and also served to make him more aware of his thoughts and emotions. Ryan is grateful to the military for making him a better, more disciplined man. He is happy to be living in Sarasota, Florida, with his two boys. “It’s a great supportive community that’s extremely welcoming to veterans,” adds Ryan.
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“On the battlefield, the military pledges to leave no soldier behind. As a nation, let it be our pledge that when they return home, we leave no veteran behind.” ~ Congressman Dan Lipinski
Photos from Linda McFarland