In 2005, Ryan was riding atop a Humvee manning the gun turret in enemy territory, when his vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED), causing a flash fire and throwing him from the Humvee. Ryan regained consciousness with his face and arms on fire, and witnessed his fellow team members suffer devastating burn and blast injuries. While Ryan’s burns were only first and second degree, his teammates suffered lifelong injuries that they are still recovering from, but all three are alive.

After completing his service, Ryan moved to Dallas, and in April of 2011, Ryan had the privilege of meeting Ret. Capt. Sam Brown, a burn survivor, and was inspired and humbled by Sam’s display of strength and courage, despite Brown’s debilitating scarring. Ryan was discouraged that Brown, and others like him, were not benefitting from advancements in the treatment of burns in the same way that amputees benefit from incredible advancements in prosthetics.

Searching for better answers, Ryan sought out civilian burn survivors as well as firemen and paramedics, seeking to understand how they believed they could be better helped after facing a severe burn, or how better initial treatment might have impacted the end result of their injury. Through those meetings and conversations, Ryan realized that traumatic burns significantly impact not only the military community, but civilians and first-responders as well.

Ryan established Sons of the Flag to help burn survivors and their families find the help and medical attention that they deserve.