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Ryan Smithson
Courtesy of the Author

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Ryan Smithson


My parents were both originally from upstate New York, but my mom moved to Arizona when she was 15. My dad met her when he took a road trip at 19. They moved to Colorado, had me in 1985, and had my little sister, Regan, in 1987. The following year, we moved back to New York. After moving around a bit, we settled in the quiet suburban town of East Greenbush.

In high school, I dated a young woman, Heather, who would change my life forever. We had our stereotypical make-up/breakup teenage relationship for awhile, but that rocky start would turn into a solid foundation.

Another decision in high school would likewise change the course of my life. During my freshman year, after telling a friend how sports had always been tough for me because I was smaller than my teammates, he suggested I try wrestling since I’d wrestle people my own size. The first day of practice, I fell in love with the oldest sport in the world and wrestled every year thereafter. Wrestling gave me confidence, discipline, and a desire to challenge myself. These attributes gave me both success on the mat and as a soldier.

I joined the military at age 17 in response to the September 11 terrorist attacks. Not wanting to completely devote myself to the military, I joined the army reserve as a heavy equipment operator. After completing basic training, I was soon shipped overseas to Iraq. The young woman who’d been by my side thus far became my wife, and our “honeymoon” was a year long, spent on opposite sides of the planet.

After coming home from Iraq, I majored in criminal justice at Hudson Valley Community College. During these two years, I held many part-time jobs. My favorite, hands down, was at a before- and after-school program for kids. It was great for college and full of the kind of humor you can only find with growing human beings.

While in college, mostly between semesters, I wrote my memoirs of Iraq, and sold them to HarperCollins near the end of my fourth semester. After graduating, Heather and I began looking for a house. Since I needed a job that could pay a mortgage, I said good-bye to the kids and found full-time work at the American Red Cross. I am currently enrolled part-time at Empire State College, working on my bachelor’s degree in history. Heather and I bought our first home in August 2008, and now life is filled with home-improvement projects. We couldn’t be happier!


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