Hero Highlight – Donald Ryan McGlothlin

Hero Highlight – Donald Ryan McGlothlin

The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, shocked the nation and the world. Americans rallied together for support and strength. Many felt the urge to defend their country – Ryan McGlothlin was one of those people.

Ryan grew up in Lebanon, Virginia, in the south western part of the State. The family was well-known in the community, as his father was a Circuit Court Judge. Ryan excelled in both athletics and academics at Lebanon High School, lettering in wrestling and track as well as achieving the rank of Eagle Scout. His studies led him to the College of William & Mary, but his heart was already set on joining the Marine Corps. Many of his professors advised him to at least complete his studies before enlisting.  Ryan had been accepted into a doctoral program in Chemistry at Stanford University, but just as the new semester began, September 11, 2001, rocked the nation. Knowing that not serving was never an option now, Ryan began his next and final phase in life as a Marine.

Next was Officer Candidate School and The Basic School, from which Ryan graduated with honors and achieved the highest overall scores in his class. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant and was stationed with the 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton as a platoon commander. In July 2005, Ryan was deployed to Kuwait, and then moved to Forward Marine Base in Al-Asad in the Al-Anbar Province, Iraq. Months later, Ryan and his platoon were informed they would be taking part in Operation Steel Curtin – a 17 day operation to try and prevent Al Qaeda from expanding to the Euphrates River Valley. On November 16, 2005, a contingent of Marines surrounded an insurgent compound. Ryan and his men quietly moved in to position. As they made their way inside one of the houses, the enemy began firing from small holes in the walls. Ryan’s unit moved rapidly to try and rescue their fallen comrades.  The position of the arms fire was key, as it hit both femoral arteries, causing the wounded to expire quickly.  Complete chaos ensued and, sadly, Ryan and others in his unit were mortally wounded. Ryan was posthumously promoted to First Lieutenant for his actions.

Before leaving home, he told his father, “Dad, if I die, I did it doing my duty and protecting my country.” These words were spoken by a true hero. Ryan and all of the men and women who lost their lives defending our freedoms are always honored and remembered at the Virginia War Memorial.

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Kyndall Drumheller