Today’s Soldier Story Saturday is written by my friend Lani who also happens to be a Michigan girl at heart! On top of being a Wife, a Mother and a Soldier Lani is also a runner who is currently training for the Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathon in Phoenix on January the 15th as a member of Team in Training. I should also mention that Lani’s youngest son is just shy of 3 months old!!! Big props to Lani for training for such a big race so soon after having a baby! If you would like to donate to Lani’s fundraiser for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, please click here. Now here is Lani’s story!
Him: It was March of 1989 and he was ready to get away from New Mexico and his home. He joined the Army and became a Paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division. Barely 18, he was sent on a plane to jump into Panama to go after Noriega. That was just the start of much combat experience for this Soldier. He spent time in Haiti. He’s been places many people don’t even know existed. He was deployed to Iraq during Desert Storm and saw stuff that still haunts his dreams to this day.
Her: A college senior was doing her student teaching in a band room in central Michigan. She wanted to be a band director, but felt there was something missing with her life. One day, an Army Recruiter and a Band Liaison came to talk to the high school band about the life of an Army bandsman. She auditioned for and was accepted into the Army band program and signed her enlistment contract soon thereafter. Graduation was just a couple of months away, and graduate she did – and then she headed to Basic Training. That was the summer of 1999.
Him: 14 June 2000 (that’s how we do the dates in the Army) was not a good day. Or was it? He was on a routine training jump when things went wrong. His parachute collapsed and he fell from the sky 200 feet up. He landed on his head and was in a coma for a week. He woke up from the coma and was sent back to his unit for light duty. During this time, he was assigned to work at the post museum, in charge of the Soldiers mowing the grass and doing other work. But he also started researching the Vietnam War and acquiring equipment and uniforms from that time. One of his first (or maybe THE first) events as a living historian was at an air show in Columbia, SC.
Her: Ft. Jackson, SC, was her first duty station, and as a member of the band, she played concerts, ceremonies, and parades all over the state. But that day she was playing at an air show in Columbia, where Ft. Jackson is located. Since her apartment was less than a mile from the air show site, she decided to drive to this performance. After the band was done performing, she decided to walk around and look at the displays, being a history buff. And then she wandered into “Vietnam” and there he was. He had an extra ticket to that evening’s USO (United Services Organization) dance and he invited her to attend. He also gave her $20 in case the ticket didn’t work. Well, she had to go to the dance, if nothing else than to give him his $20 back.
Them: They had a great time at the dance although they didn’t dance much. They enjoyed the big band music of the 40s and talked a lot, getting to know each other. He asked her out and she said yes. That was 10 years ago, and now former Staff Sergeant Ryan and current Staff Sergeant Lani have been married for almost 9 years. They have endured three major separations – their engagement and first few months of marriage while Lani was in Korea (they got married during her mid-tour leave) and then two deployments – 6 months to Afghanistan and a year to Iraq. Lani and Ryan have two sons, Robert (age 7) and Thomas (age 2 1/2 months). Lani is currently stationed at Ft. Huachuca, AZ, and is still with the band after 12 years of service to her country with the U.S. Army. Ryan is a disabled veteran who enjoys golfing, doing ceramics, and riding his Harley Davidson motorcycle.
f you are interested in contributing a story to the Soldier Story Saturday series, please contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org If this story or any of the other stories featured in the series have moved you enough to donate to my Wounded Warrior Project fundraiser, please click here to do so. Thank you.