Ryan Newell (Sgt., US Army) – Marion, KS

Nature of Project: Spa

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Retired Army Sgt. Ryan J. Newell heard his calling at a young age, in 2002 he was just a junior in high school and 9/11 conflicted the hearts of our nation. It was then that Ryan decided his career path, at 17 he left high school and immediately tested out for his GED to join the Army. As ready as he was to defend our country he was also hesitant, he and his mother were incredibly close and she was fighting her own battle. Cancer was threatening to tear their world apart. She encouraged him with great pride to follow his dreams and to be the very best he could. After basic training Sgt Newell was on deployment to Iraq when he received a message that no soldier wants to receive, the Red Cross informed Sgt Newell that his mother was not expected to live much longer. Sgt Newell was flown home on emergency leave and was able to spend a few days with his mother before having to lay her to rest. After the services, Sgt Newell rejoined his unit in the fight back in Iraq. After participating in multiple deployments over the years Sgt Newell was assigned to a unit called J.I.E.D.D.O.

Upon his assignment to the unit Sgt Newell was trained in I.E.D tactics and how to defeat these devices that were taking so many life’s of his brothers in arms. Sgt Newell was on a mission with his team to collect an HVT (high value target) that had been causing issues in a local village south of Jalalabad, Afghanistan. On 07 January 2008, after defusing an Improvised Explosive Device and collecting their HVT they started their journey back to the base they called home, this is when his nightmare began. The truck that was carrying Sgt Newell and his team was struck by 100 pounds of homemade explosives, resulting in the death of Maj Green and Sgt Healy. This blast not only took two brothers but took Sgt Newell’s legs as well. Being the only survivor Sgt Newell faced a long road ahead. After being flown to Germany and receiving multiple surgeries, Sgt Newell landed in Washington D.C. where the road to recovery began. During his time at Walter Reed he continued to have surgeries to repair the damage the blast caused. Learning to walk on two prosthetic legs seemed to be a challenge at first but Sgt Newell knew he couldn’t stay down as he had to be strong for his brothers who gave their life so that he could still be here today. Upon completion of that phase of therapy, Sgt Newell retired back to his home state of Kansas. One would think or even hope that his struggles were behind him and that life just continues from there. It was merely the beginning of what will always be a trying road. Facing not only the identity crisis of a new physical being but to also adjust to a life that is no longer familiar, as the only survivor, is at best difficult. Ryan will live the rest of his life on a new mission, to stay even just one step ahead of PTSD/TBI and his physical challenges. He has been wheel chair bound for the last 12 months as he is facing traumatic amputation complications. As of recent he had an extensive surgery on both legs and we are facing several more in the many months to come. One of our biggest obstacles is that our resources are limited, as we live an hour away from the means needed for effective physical therapy. Aquatic therapy is the only treatment option to aid in muscle retention, physical therapy and weight control. We do have access to a public pool but as you can imagine it isnt easy, people can be cruel and Ryan isn’t in a place that he is comfortable with the many changes his body has undergone. We have 4 girls from 10 to 14 and family time is very important to him. Not being able to spend school-less summers outdoors playing, as most families do, takes quite an emotional toll. I cannot think of a single way a pool would not benefit my warrior; physically or emotionally. We are in the early planning stages of our wedding and his goal is to be able to stand as I walk down the aisle. We are beyond grateful for Water for Warriors and the honor to be a recipient of such an impacting gift. Words cannot express!

Most sincerely,
Sgt. Ryan Newell, Kari Cook and our beautiful family

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