Veterans Day & Two Kinds of Heroes

ryan-bustLast year I shared a story about service and giving back that is very close to my heart. This story is about a mother (my cousin Mary) and her son Ryan, a man who gave his life for others…and for our freedom.

Like thousands of other men and women in our military, Ryan Miller served on behalf of people he did not know. As a marine, he was deployed to Iraq in 2004 and then again in July of 2006. Unfortunately, two months into his second tour, on September 3, 2006, Ryan gave the ultimate sacrifice when he was killed during combat in Anbar Province.

Ryan, like so many others, was a hero. What could be greater heroism than laying down your life for others?

But this year I’ve been reflecting on another kind of hero. These are the heroes who’ve never laid down their lives on some faraway battlefield—but they are laying down their lives in other ways. You see, Ryan’s family has heroically carried on his memory, turning his tragic death into a triumphant story of hope and dedication.

In the spirit of Ryan’s selfless commitment to help others, the family created The Lance Corporal Ryan E. Miller Memorial Scholarship to provide disadvantaged students with an opportunity to attend St. Francis DeSales High School in Columbus, Ohio, which also was my high school Alma Mater.

As a 2003 graduate of DeSales High School, Ryan knew the importance of a great education. And with this scholarship in his honor, he’ll once again serve others he did not know.

The family just hosted its annual memorial golf tournament to raise funds for Ryan’s scholarship fund. Each September the tournament raises thousands of dollars to help needy kids get a quality education.

What a beautiful example of a family using their grief to make an impact on others. Yes, the family members are all heroes to me. Year after year, they are still engaging in the battle to make the world a better place—and they are prevailing.

Thank you, Lance Corporal Ryan E. Miller. I am eternally grateful for your example in laying down your life for others. Your heroism is impacting us all.

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