Injured Marine Finds Strength in Family

Every day like clockwork, firemen arrive at the Ellenville, N.Y., home of Marine Sgt. Eddie Ryan. But this not just a social visit -- they're here to work.

Ryan was injured in Iraq in 2005 during his third tour of duty. As part of an elite sniper team known as Reaper 6, Ryan was stationed on a rooftop in Ramadi when there was a breakdown in communication. He took two bullets to the head -- the victim of friendly fire.

The bullet that entered above his right eyebrow ripped through his brain, leaving him in grave condition.

"When we first got there, we did not expect him to survive," said his father, Chris.

Eddie RyanPlay

"My prayers were, let him hang on," said his mother, Angie.

"Hang on, and we'll get you home to the land that you fought for," his father remembered. "It's amazing the deals you work out with God, but he got through that."


But Ryan's next battle was just beginning. He spent the next 16 months in and out of hospitals. His injury left him with severely limited mobility. Veterans Affairs awarded him five days a week of physical, occupational and speech therapy, but his parents said that all of the help has not materialized.

"He's getting less than half," Chris Ryan told ABC News. "They're saying they can't provide the people."

Eddie Ryan's local VA currently provides him with one hour of physical therapy a week, five hours of speech therapy and two to three hours of occupational therapy. VA doctors have recommend that Ryan return to an inpatient facility to get full-time care, although his parents told ABC News that the primary doctor who made this diagnosis has never actually met their son. The VA however says that they have tried to schedule a meeting.

Ryan refuses to return to the VA, and his parents agree. "We don't ever want to see our kid in a VA hospital or any other facility again," said Chris. "If he can get his physical therapy here at home, he loves it here."

The Ryans are using their own money, along with money donated to them through fundraisers, to help their son get the care he needs. At great expense, they hired a personal trainer as well as music and massage therapists, but their son still needed more help.

That's when the firefighters stepped in.

Beginning in March, a group of 13 firemen organized themselves to come to Ryan's home in shifts so that at least two fireman were at Ryan's home each day to help him with his physical therapy. Led by Joe Morstatt, a veteran New York City firefighter and friend of Angie Ryan, the firemen take turns rotating his arms and legs to help him stay moving and to increase his range of motion, strength and flexibility.

"Eddie's 6 foot 1 and 240 pounds," said Angie Ryan. "He's a big boy. They come in and they keep his arms and legs moving so he doesn't cramp up."

In addition to this physical help, the firemen also provide Ryan with a friendship and brotherhood that in many ways echoes the spirit of the Marines. For Ryan, it has been just the medicine he needs. "They gave me my life back," he said.

And so this dedicated group of volunteer firefighters will continue to come to Ellenville for as long as it takes.

"To know this family, to know this brave Marine, is to want to always be there for him," said Morstatt. "I don't see an end to this. I see this as being, as long as they need us, we're here."

To learn more about Eddie Ryan or to make a donation to him and his family, visit: