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Remembering Ryan Means

Song Lyric of the Day:

Oh good people’ve been here over ten thousand years / Everyone bright as shining sun / We’ve got no less days to sing God’s praise / From the time that we begun

Cat Power & Dirty Delta Blues / “Amazing Grace

On July 13, 2009, I wrote a post about the passing of 35-year-old Staff Sgt. Ryan Means. The story behind what led me to write about — and be so affected by — Ryan’s passing began with another blog post, one I wrote to commemorate the fifth anniversary of 9/11. For it was in that post that I eulogized another young man, Adam Shelby White, who happened to be Ryan’s best friend. It seems only fitting that two of the posts that were so emotionally hard for me to write still resonate years later. Since my posts about Adam and Ryan, I’ve received comments from and exchanged e-mails with Adam’s father, Ryan’s niece, some of Adam’s friends, and, most recently, Ryan’s Aunt Ann and one of his brothers, Tommy. Thanks to the combined graciousness of Tommy and Ann, they’re allowing me to share the beautiful tribute video Tommy made for his brother to memorialize Ryan on Memorial Day 2010. The video begins with Ryan’s burial at Arlington National Cemetery on August 3, 2009. It ends with photos of Ryan with family, friends, and his Army unit, many showcasing his sense of humor (I’m particularly fond of the one with his daughter on the massage table). One of the most poignant photos is the next-to-last one, a black-and-white photo of a young Ryan holding a young Adam on his shoulders.

I knew before clicking on play that the video would be hard for me to watch. And I did cry for Ryan and his family all over again. But I like to think that maybe, in even the tiniest way, his family knows that I (and other strangers throughout the world) share their grief and they’re not alone in remembering this brave young man, husband, father, son, and brother, and that it helps them a little. I know it helps me.

Ryan Means Tribute Film from Tommy Means on Vimeo.

My eternal gratitude to the Means family for sharing their story with me, and for letting me share it with others.

Please stop by the site for Ryan’s daughters, The Sophie and Elizabeth Education Fund.

Visit the Ryan Patman Means Tribute Page on Facebook.
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Filed under grief, loss, personal, video

Staff Sgt. Ryan Means

Song Lyric of the Day:

Got a man of the people / Says keep hope alive

Neil Young / “Keep On Rockin’ in the Free World

I check my StatCounter and Site Meter stats fairly regularly to see what keywords are leading people to my old blog here. Almost always, it’s song lyrics that lead people here. However, over the last several days I’ve noticed a lot of hits on my blog for the name “Ryan Means.” I immediately worried as to the exact reason why so many people were searching for his name; had something happened to him? I recognized Ryan’s name immediately because he reached out to me almost three years ago with regard to the 9/11 tribute post I wrote for Adam Shelby White, who died in the World Trade Center. You see, Adam was Ryan’s best friend, and Ryan e-mailed me to thank me for remembering his friend:

You somehow have chosen to honor my best friend Adam Shelby White who was murdered on 9/11. Adam was perhaps one of the greatest people I have ever known. We had been best friends since 1st grade; college roomates, fraternity brothers, climbing partners and a whole lot more. He was 27 years old when he died. Adam absolutely loved life and was always fun to be around. Everybody loved the guy. He wasn\’t very big but was incredibly talented and very intelligent. A true renaissance man; bigger than life itself.

I was there that day and watched the whole thing. In the weeks following I searched for him in the various hospitals and waited for him to be pulled out. During this time, I met many of the families and friends of other victims. It was brutal to walk the streets for days and see the massive walls of photos and information looking for the thousands of dead. I have ASW tattood in small letters on the right side of my torso to remind myse!lf of him every single day. Since then I have left my job and New York and joined the Army. I\’m 2 months away from graduating from the Special Forces and receiving my Green Beret. Afterwhich I\’ll be going to find the people responsible and do what I\’ve been trained. I do this for Adam and the other 2,993 vicitims.

Thank you for remembering my friend.


Ryan P. Means.

You can see what a special person Ryan was, in no sm
all part because of how he chose to honor his late friend, as well as all the others lost that day. Which is why I was devastated this morning when my Google search for “Ryan Means” didn’t take me back to my own tribute to Adam as it had for the last few days, but instead pulled up his obituary: Ryan died last Tuesday, July 7, of cholangiocarcinoma. He was only 35. And even though he’s someone I hadn’t ever met and with whom I’d only exchanged a couple of e-mails, I had to hurry to the bathroom because I started crying. I cried because he was so young, because he leaves behind a wife and two young daughters, his parents, three brothers, and countless friends; and because it seems like such a cruel twist of fate that this brave young man, who risked his life defending our country, ultimately lost his life to cancer.

I encourage you to read more about Ryan Means on the website his family set up for his daughters, the Sophie and Elizabeth Education Fund. (His obituary has also been re-posted on some military message boards.) I think that this statement from his family says it all:

We will remember Ryan as a sweet son, a loving husband, a doting father, a wild-man brother, an unwavering friend, and a fearless soldier. But most of all, we will remember Ryan as our hero.

And if any of his family or friends read this, I want them to know I’m grieving right alongside with them. All because of two e-mails.


Filed under grief