U.S. Army Sgt. Ryan Newell won’t be stopped from doing anything.
The young family man was the only survivor of an attack Jan. 7, 2008, in Afghanistan during his third tour of duty in the Middle East.
He had volunteered to go on a mission with a special Improvised Explosive Device task force and was helping escort his friend, Maj. Michael Green, to check out an IED call. The call was a setup to lure a high-ranking officer, like Green, into a trap. Insurgents had planted explosives underground and waited for Green’s Humvee to drive over the explosives to detonate them remotely.
Newell was the gunner facing away from the insurgent that armed the bomb. When the explosion occurred, Newell was thrown 300 feet from the ruined Humvee, and the only reason he survived was his elevated position as a gunner.
Newell wrapped his legs with makeshift tourniquets and continued firing his gun at insurgents before he was found. He was airlifted to Landstuhl, Germany but doctors had to amputate both of his legs at the knee.
After nearly two years at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C., Newell was fitted for prosthetics, completed his physical therapy, and returned to Marion in November.
“He’s had a good outlook,” Carrie, Ryan’s wife, said. “He knows he’s here for a reason. He’s here to help other people and he’s here for his family.”
When Newell was launched from the Humvee by the explosion, he suffered a traumatic brain injury. The injury has affected Ryan’s short-term memory retention and officials at Walter Reed gave Newell a Personal Digital Assistant so he can remember all of his engagements.
“It doesn’t ever go away. It’s a blessing that it’s that small of a problem,” Carrie Newell said. “Some people can’t function on a normal level.”
Newell also suffers nightmares and flashbacks caused by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Newell keeps up with Maj. Green’s mother and the family members of the Humvee driver, Sgt. James Healy, to help him deal with the pangs of anguish he feels for surviving
“(He believes) if he’d been facing the other way, he could have stopped the whole thing (from happening),” Carrie said of the way Ryan sometimes feels about the attack.
“There’s an adjustment for everybody involved,” Carrie said.
Wounded Warriors has been a fount of reliable resources.
Ryan Newell is helping other veterans by volunteering his time for charity work with Wounded Warriors.
Newell is friends with PGA golfer, and Olathe resident, Tom Watson and they are currently planning a charity golf event.
Newell is also spending as much time with his four children, ages 3 to 11, as possible, although the children have had to learn to be patient with their father.
“The kids have been really great; they know he has certain things that he can’t do,” Carrie Newell said. “All our kids like to go to the zoo. They know he’ll have to ride in a wheel chair for long walks.”
“They really do have amazing outlets or programs. They’ve got people that you can go to,” she said.
During his two-year stint at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Newell went skiing in New Hampshire with Wounded Warriors.
Newell used a mono-ski to take on the slopes — the mono-ski is a chair connected to a ski that is suspended a few feet off the ground. It takes a considerable amount of balance to wield.
Although Newell officially retired from the Army Nov. 24, the Newells are planning to return to New Hampshire later this winter to ski as part of the Wounded Warriors alumni program. The organization will pay for the family’s airfare and other expenses.
Organization provides Newells with a home
Homes For Our Troops is an organization building a house for the Newells in Marion. The house will be specially fitted to make Newell’s life easier. The Newells went through the Homes For Our Troops application process for a year and a half before being approved.
Homes For Our Troops is asking for assistance from building professionals to help build the Newells home.
Those who are interested can call (866)-787-6677 and ask for Meaghan Lambert, the project facilitator.