Ryan Conklin And Serendipity

August 31, 2010

Ryan ConklinRyan Conklin, of The Real World Brooklyn and An Angel From Hell fame, started class this week at Temple University in Philadelphia. What’s really cool for some of his fellow students is that in their pursuit of learning and a hopefully marketable degree, they will serendipitously find themselves in the same class as Ryan and without any effort get to meet and know Ryan Conklin first hand. A lot of them will never even have heard of him before and yet they will have the opportunity that a lot of long-time fans will never get.

There are probably more than a few people around the country who are in the category of being followers since the beginning, and who will never meet Ryan in person, who may understandably and enviously file this thought under the tag of “life sucks the major root”. However, I think it’s great for the lucky Temple students. I hope they make the most of the opportunity, if only for the people who won’t get the chance.


Ryan Conklin Reports On GIFF

May 10, 2010

Ryan ConklinRyan Conklin will be attending the 2010 GI Film Festival in Washington, D.C. During the run of the festival (May 11-16), Ryan will be a guest blogger/ correspondent for the program, covering GIFF’s primetime events.

Located at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, GIFF “will present films from new and established international and domestic filmmakers that honor the heroic stories of the American Armed Forces and the worldwide struggle for freedom and liberty.”

In addition to his role as guest blogger, on Friday Ryan will be attending a day-long GIFF seminar/workshop on filmmaking. The event will cover film financing, distribution, marketing and film pitching. It will also give attendees the chance to network with Hollywood insiders. It will be a good learning opportunity for Ryan A. Conklin, a film studies major at Temple University.

Read Ryan Conklin At GI Film Festival.

Ryan Conklin On Dateline: Washington

April 26, 2010

Ryan ConklinTo promote his book An Angel From Hell, author Ryan A. Conklin was a guest on the radio program “Dateline: Washington”, hosted by Greg Corombos.

Greg asked Ryan about how Ryan knew right away after 9/11 that he wanted to join the Army. Ryan replied that he was what is known as a “9/11 baby”. He was one of the people that caused recruitment in the military to soar after the attacks. Ryan joined during his junior year in high school, when he was looking for what to do after he graduated. He wasn’t ready to go to college, so there was nothing pulling him away from joining. He wanted to go to Afghanistan to “put it to it to the guys who started this.” Furthermore, he didn’t want a cushy job. He wanted a front line job that would allow him to look the enemy in the eye. He decided the best fit for him would be in the infantry, and that’s what he got.

Greg mentioned that in the book, Ryan tells about having several different kinds of jobs. Greg wanted to know if Ryan’s training helped him. Ryan answered that the two years of training he had before he deployed to Iraq helped, but there was a “lack of accurate training”. It was cold war style, training in the woods in green camo with green face paint, and learning how to attack a bunker. There were essential things for being in Iraq that weren’t taught, like speaking Arabic. Once he got to Iraq, Ryan found himself learning as he went along on what he needed to know. Greg also asked about what urban fighting is like. Ryan said that it is about going out and being seen. It could be boring, but there were intense times with IEDs and sniper fire. Ryan explained that you always have to be ready and focused. It can be “zero to hell” in a second.

On the psychological toll, Ryan said it depended on who you are with. It can actually be comical in a Humvee. He said you would think the soldiers would be wide-eyed, staring out the window waiting for something to happen. In fact there is a lot of joking around, while still doing their job. It’s a way to make the best of it. Cutting the tension keeps people’s sanity and keeps them from being too wound up. Ryan said if you don’t have a sense of humor, you are doomed.

Greg asked Ryan Conklin what he hoped people would learn from the book. Ryan said that he wrote about what he saw and didn’t go above his area of knowledge. His style was to write like he was telling his story directly to an individual who knew nothing about what the service was like. From what he has been told by people who have read it, it makes the readers feel like they are out on patrol with Ryan, seeing what he saw.

Ryan Conklin’s Mother On The Radio

April 25, 2010

Ryan ConklinAuthor Ryan A. Conklin and his mother Pat Conklin were guests on the radio show “Radio Times” on station WHYY, discussing Ryan’s experience as a soldier in Iraq. Ryan Conklin was on the show to promote his book, An Angel From Hell.

The host of the show, Marty Moss-Coane, spoke to Ryan about how some soldiers struggle when they come home from a deployment, trying to adjust back into civilian life. Ryan remarked how the Army didn’t take steps to ensure people integrated back into society. His experience was that he came back to the U.S. and right away got processed out and was quickly back at home with his parents. It happened so quickly, Ryan didn’t have time to adjust. It left him feeling like he was on his own, just drifting around. Not knowing what to do going forward, he looked back with a sense that he still had unfinished business with the military, that he was out of place being away from it. He didn’t have anything in his at-home life that filled the void of the detachment. He missed a lot of things he had become accustomed to, especially the camaraderie of his buddies.

Ryan said that compounding that is that it isn’t possible to flip the switch to move from a combat mentality to a civilian one. In Iraq, the soldiers were constantly on guard in their minds with the anticipation of some attack, no matter what they were doing. When they come home, their mindset is still that way. It’s a struggle to deal with coming down from that apprehension. The host noted that in the MTV documentary about Ryan, Return to Duty, Ryan’s brother and sister remarked how vigilant Ryan was when he returned to his home town of Gettysburg. Ryan agreed, saying that seeing even a single piece of garbage on the highway would make his heart speed up, as his mind considered that it could be something that might blow up. Many other things would effect him adversely as well, such a loud noises from construction sites or traffic.

Ryan’s parents were watching Ryan to see how he was adapting to normal life. His mom could see how he was struggling. She suggested that he do something constructive with a stack of old printed emails – emails that Ryan had sent from Iraq to his parents detailing his experience there. She told him it would be good for him to use them as a basis for opening up and expressing himself through writing. Marty asked Pat about the emails and Pat explained why she had kept them for giving to Ryan when he returned home. Ryan is considered the historian in the family. He is very much into family genealogy. As all the family are history buffs, she felt that the emails would be worth holding on to, not knowing when Ryan might want to refer back to them to revisit what had occurred. Ryan did use the emails, and with them wrote An Angel From Hell.

Marty also asked Pat about an earlier experience when she had had to do something for Ryan: sign her permission for the then 17 year old Ryan to join the Army. Pat acknowledged that it was very hard for her to do. She was concerned for her son, but she could see that Ryan had thought through his plans well. He meticulously explained why he was doing it and how he would use it later in life. It took awhile to convince Pat, but reluctantly she acceded to her son’s intent.

Marty asked Pat about the emotion she clearly felt at the airport watching Ryan say goodbye as he left to return to the Army, as seen in the documentary Return to Duty. Pat said it was very emotional for the whole family and hard on all of them. She felt it was probably hard for Ryan too, but he doesn’t say much to his parents about what happens after he is out of their sight. It was actually harder the second time that Ryan went into the Army because the family knew what had happened during the first deployment. As a parent feeling the responsibility to protect her child and knowing she couldn’t, she was distraught about seeing him go.

Marty remarked that at the airport it was clear the family was trying to protect one another. Pat replied that the family didn’t want to put an additional burden on a departing soldier. They didn’t want him to to be concerned about how the family was bearing up. Once he was in Iraq they would again try to mask their concern, using humor when he called or wrote. They wanted to show Ryan that they were going to be okay.

With the communication with Iraq. there was the difficult situation with the blackouts. Where there was an incident with casualties, the Army would put a blackout on the internet and phone connections, to control the release of information about it. Ryan had warned his parents about it. He told them that if they didn’t hear anything for several days, that’s good. The Army would notify the family within 48 hours if their loved one had been injured, so if 48 hours had passed, they would know they were okay. The time during the 48 hour wait periods was very slow. Pat would want to communicate with Ryan, to know how he was doing, how he was feeling, what he was eating, and other parental concerns.

Something that Pat and her husband never needed to say to Ryan was their views on the war. Ryan still doesn’t know what his parents’ view is. What he does know is their faithful support of the soldiers in Iraq and how proud his parents are of him and what he has accomplished during the years of his young life.

Ryan A. Conklin On The Marc Steiner Show

April 7, 2010

Ryan ConklinOn April 7th, 2010, Ryan A. Conklin was a guest on The Marc Steiner Show, a radio show broadcast from Baltimore, Maryland. Ryan Conklin went on the show to discuss his memoir, An Angel From Hell. The host Marc Steiner was well versed in the details of the book and spoke with Ryan about several of the important parts in it.

Steiner asked about 9/11, which Ryan refers to at the start of the book. Ryan replied that he was in high school, planning on going to college, but not sure exactly what his plans would be after that. After 9/11, he was sure of what he wanted to do. He wanted to join the army. He joined at age 17 but waited until he graduated before going into uniform.

Steiner wondered if Ryan has considered why he joined the Army while other students did not. Ryan replied that it was something he wanted to do but it wasn’t something that many others did. He didn’t join because of following anyone else.

Next Steiner talked about Ryan entering Army training. Ryan explained that he had chosen to be an infantryman, but it was the Army that placed him with the 101st Airborne. Ryan was happy that to be part of it because of their traditions, such as their phrase, “rendezvous with destiny”. For him the airborne part was learning to jump out of helicopters instead of planes. He trained non-stop for 2 years before deploying. That amount of time was good for building camaraderie and giving him the training he needed to be effective in Iraq.

Steiner noted that the book is not a reflective work; it’s about what Ryan went through everyday. Ryan agreed that it is not an analysis, but rather a narrative about what daily life was like. He said he wrote it as if telling the story to a person who is ignorant of everything connected with the military. There are a lot of acronyms connected with the Army, but where Ryan used them, he provided definitions.

A major incident in the book is the death of Andrew Kemple and Steiner asked about it. Ryan stated that the war wasn’t personal for him until Kemple’s death. There had been injuries to friends that had caused some emotion, but Kemple’s death by a sniper hit Ryan with the reality of what could happen to any of the men in his platoon. There was a certain sense of comfort and familiarity of knowing what to do to protect yourself, but after the death of Kemple, Ryan started being more cautious and attuned to all the hidden dangers. Since there is no front line and no enemy in uniform, anyone could be the enemy. It was hard to deal with.

A few days after Kemple’s death several Iraqis were taken prisoner in relation to the sniping. As one of their guards, Ryan took his anger out on them, yelling and ranting and getting things off his chest. It felt good at the time, but while writing about it, Ryan felt that he had deviated from his usual good ways.

Steiner asked Ryan if he would still enlist if he had it to do over again. Ryan answered that yes, knowing what he knows now, he would. The friendships and life lessons from his time in the Army are invaluable. One of the important lessons he learned was how much greater his personal limits are than what he might have thought otherwise. The circumstances he was in, where he was pushed and where he was encouraged by seeing the endurance of his buddies, caused him to go beyond the mental barrier of his perceived limitations. He is still able to apply that expanded view of his ability in his everyday life.

However, now that he has done two deployments, Ryan has no interest in returning to the military. After the first deployment, he missed the camaraderie of his buddies and the good feeling from doing a job (as an infantryman) that he knew he was very good at. After the second tour, he had it out of his system to be an infantryman again. Technically, Ryan is still in the IRR, but the timing requirements of being recalled another time make it unrealistic for it to happen again.

On a question about the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Ryan talked about his involvement with the group, including his participation in their “Storm The Hill 2010” campaign to lobby Congress for veterans’ issues. Ryan spoke with Congressman and Senators and staff of the President about the IAVA’s agenda.

A radio listener called in with a question, asking Ryan if he had considered joining Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW). Ryan replied that he had been to some of their events so that he could better understand their position, but their view is not necessarily what he consistently believes. His focus is primarily on the cause of supporting returning veterans.

At the end of the program, Steiner asked Ryan about one of the most striking passages in the book, which is a description of the visible aftermath of a suicide bombing. The words go into graphic detail of what a field of body parts looks like. Ryan explained that he wanted to adequately capture the horror of it. Referring back to the impetus for the whole book, he said he wrote the chapter as a way to get the images out of his head. For him this exercise was very effective, and he encourages other veterans also to use writing as therapy.

Ryan Conklin Speaks To Congress

February 8, 2010

Ryan A. Conklin IAVA

During the week of February 8-12, 2010, Ryan Conklin will be working in Washington, D.C. with the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) as part of a team to inform members of Congress about the organizations’s legislative priorities. The campaign is known as “Storm the Hill 2010” and it will help Congress to better understand the needs of our newest military veterans.

The 2010 priorities are modernizing the VA claims processing system, streamlining and simplifying the post 9/11 GI bill, securing jobs for veterans, eliminating combat stress stigma, and supporting better health care for female veterans.

Ryan will be part of “Team Bravo”, one of the seven teams of veterans that will be speaking to members of Congress and their staff.

You can learn more about the work that the IAVA is doing during this campaign and see how you help support it by going to www.stormthehill.org.

Ryan Speaks About His Return To Duty Special

November 4, 2009

Ryan Conklin in IraqIn a video clip from Iraq, Ryan Conklin spoke about the MTV television special that will chronicle his time after the end of The Real World Brooklyn. It will show his preparation to return to active service in the Army and then his deployment to Iraq and his experiences there. It will focus not only on him but also on other people in his life, relating how Ryan’s recall has profoundly affected them. The show is called Return To Duty and will premiere on MTV at 9pm on November 11th, 2009.

Ryan compared the timing of the premiere with what had happened one year prior. He reminded viewers that a year ago he had received the notification from the Army that he was being recalled from the Individual Ready Reserve. Now on the anniversary of that fateful event, Ryan wanted to do something he felt a lot more favorable about. He wants to show everyone what being in that kind of situation is like, and what it means to soldiers and their families.

Ryan explained that with his own camera he himself had recorded a lot of the raw footage. Then the resources of BMP were able to take the video and craft the hour special. Ryan has seen the finished product and he is very excited and very impressed by it. He needed to watch it for the first time by himself, as he knew it would be something that was very emotional for him.

Ryan said it is a great story. It’s one that is relatable to families that have experienced the same situation themselves, and for those families that haven’t, it should be a good education about what sending someone off to war is like.

(Mark your Ryan A. Conklin calendars for 11/11/09).

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