Just Caring For Eddie

February 13th, 2006 3:35 PM
If there is any area of news coverage where media bias exists, it is the seemingly universal ignoring of the human face of war by the mainstream press.

Those labeled as “traditional” broadcast outlets and print publications have consistently offered the public a laundry list of bombs, bodies and devastation, but have seldom reported little more than the numbers. It is rare indeed when a person or group are examined as living, breathing participants in what is perhaps the most horrifying and uncivilized of endeavors.... war.

To bring the reality of the conflict in Iraq into focus, one must turn to what is rapidly being referred to as “the new media”. In more precise language it is the combined efforts of talk radio and the electronic publications of the Internet that reach the heart and the hurt of what is happening to the men and women of our armed forces.

A prime example of this would be when reporting about those who have been wounded in action. Traditional publications seldom report on wounded Americans. If they do, the items are short and usually limited to numbers or totals. Those wishing to learn more must search out websites on the Internet or tune in the commentators of talk radio. A Google or Yahoo search will give you more than 1,400,000 hits on information about Americans wounded in Iraq.

The topic can best be examined using the heart- wrenching story of Marine Sergeant Eddie Ryan. On April 13, 2005 this young Marine was manning a rooftop position along with other members of his sniper platoon. Not much was happening until that first shot and a bullet pierced his brain. It was quickly followed by a second shot that smashed into his jaw. The enemy had not even pulled the trigger that day. Ryan had been the mistaken target of friendly fire. But, this is not really a story of a devastating wound, but instead it is one of faith and prayer.

Eddie Ryan died that day. There was not a breath of life in him when teammate Sergeant Karl Schaeffer started CPR. He continued forcing air into Ryan and applying the life saving technique until the young Marine was again breathing on his own.

When Eddie was in condition to be moved, he was flown to Germany. He was sustained by a variety of life support systems and given little chance of survival. His parents were flown in to be by his side. Doctors told them that even if he did remain alive there was no way he would ever remember his family or anything about himself. All his father, Chris could do was remain by his side for hours on end and pray to God for his life.

Eddie never left them. When he was stable enough, he was air evacuated to Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland. At the time doctors said it was so he could be close to family and friends at the end. Everyone’s prayers continued. WABC’s Mark Levin who asked all his listeners to pray for Eddie heard the family had asked for a network of prayer and informed his audience. Sean Hannity reported the story on his radio program. The hometown community and the church offered prayers. They were all answered far beyond anyone’s expectations.

Ryan’s friend and team leader is “CJ” Quinlan was still in Iraq, but asked his wife to keep checking on the wounded Marine and report back. It was a difficult for Lisa to walk into that hospital room and see a close family friend lying in such a state, but she continued coming and reporting on those visits to those still fighting the war.

One day another Marine returned from Iraq and Lisa Quinlan took him to see Eddie. “I brought Sergeant Taylor White to the room that day and when Eddie saw him he smiled.” He recognized Taylor White... his first reaction to seeing a friend.

Progress continued and six weeks after being shot Eddie started to move his head. Next he was transferred from Bethesda to a military rehabilitation hospital in Richmond, Virginia. Shortly after arriving he looked at his mother and uttered his first word...”Mom”. The very next day His father Chris was bending down and saying, “I love you”, when the Marine responded, “I love you too, Dad.” At that moment they knew he was aware of his family.

The Marine’s recall was proven again when CJ Quinlan returned from Iraq and walked into the room. Eddie looked at him and said “Papa Bear” which was CJ’s nickname.

Today, Eddie Ryan has gained weight, can talk haltingly, and has full use of his left arm and limited use of the right arm. He can sit up in his wheelchair and has managed to stand with assistance, but is still unable to walk. Eddie has full memory and recalls the events of his childhood and later years. He has a sense of humor and his sister makes him laugh frequently. He is starting to speak in complete sentences.

Eddie’s father took months off from work to be by his side. Angie, his mother, quit her job to remain near the wounded Marine and his sister, Felicia, took time off from college to be with her brother.

This is a story that has been told and retold by website, e-zines and email. Few mentions of Sergeant Eddie Ryan appear in the mainstream media.

One such mention, however, must be credited to a caring publication. On January 23, 2006 there was a story in The Times Herald-Record, which serves New York’s Hudson Valley and the Catskills. It tells of Eddie Ryan’s battle to recover from his wounds. It reports on how the family’s main concern is that Eddie’s release from the hospital is only weeks away and he will be unable to function in their small home.

According to the Times Herald-Record, “...the hallway to Eddie’s bedroom is too narrow for him and the wheelchair. The main bathroom in his family’s 1,300 square foot ranch-style home can’t accommodate him, either. The living room can’t hold Eddie, his mother Angela, his dad and sister Felicia at the same time, Chris Ryan says.”

Handicapped assessable renovations, including an addition to the home will carry a price tag of almost $100,000. It is a cost far beyond the family’s reach. Eddie is only eligible for $10,000 in government assistance. But, the faith of the entire family remains strong. Their prayers for help are being answered too. People are coming to the aid of Eddie and his family in a variety of ways.

Americans are reaching out. Barry Fixler, a jewelry storeowner and former Marine is running a special event through Valentine’s Day. All proceeds from his jewelry sales will be donated to the wounded serviceman’s rehabilitation. Fixler learned about Eddie’s condition from his wife, Linda, who is one of the Marine’s nurses.

Eddie Ryan’s story is being carried on a website donated by A&E Advertising and Web Design. The company has also made arrangements for people to donate to Eddie Ryan’s rehabilitation at www.helpeddieryan.com.

Marine sniper buddies have joined together and are offering a special rifle in a fund raising drawing that is dedicated to Eddie. Those wishing to purchase a ticket can write to Sniper’s Hide at fgalli@intelexltd.com.

Chris Ryan is looking into every possible option to assist his son. He is comforted by the public response the family has already received. But, he also noted there are almost 10,000 wounded service personnel who can never return to active duty. “Things have got to change”, he says, “not just for Eddie, but also for all these kids giving their lives and their blood for their country. They are not getting taken care of.”