By Thomas Sellers Jr.
In the very spot where countless student/athletes and fine arts students inked documents to secure the next step in their life, Peyton Ryan was the next in the line. Joined by his parents Jenifer and Staff Sgt. Michael Ryan, Peyton took center stage in front of his peers, administrators and staff to enlist.
“I swore into the Air National Guard,” Peyton said. “I officially enlisted. My family has always been in the military. My great-grandpa was in World War II. And my Dad is in the Army. The route I want to go to be a pilot, I definitely have to go because the Air National Guard will help pay for my college.”
Once he graduates in May, Peyton will be the latest in his family to join the military. Earlier his month he was sworn into the Air National Guard by his cousin CPT Jeremiah Jones.
Also serving in the family are married couple Jody and Ian Barber in the Army National Guard.
“It had a lot of impact on my decision because I knew I wanted to go that route eventually to serve my country like all the men in my family have,” Peyton said. “A few months ago, I was going 100 percent with my decision. I talked it over with my parent. My Dad’s advice was do what you want to do. ‘You don’t have to do it. It’s not my decision. It’s your decision.’ And I wanted to do it.”
Michael did take time to teach his son about the family’s history in serving the United States. A trio of Peyton’s great-grandfathers served during World War II with Troy Ryan paying the ultimate price. Ryan was killed in a B-17 attack.
Peyton’s step-grandfather Bolivar Hill was tank commander in the Battle of the Bulge. It was Germany’s last major offensive campaign on the Western Front during WWII. And maternal great -randfather Hershel Barber served during WWII.
Those men first inspired Michael to enlist with him currently in his 12th year. During that time, the elder Ryan has coached baseball and football in the area while teaching teenagers. Peyton has been one of his players earning four-year varsity status for TRA Rebel Football and Baseball.
Ryan was a key pitcher for Head Coach Brad Smith’s Rebels, reaching the State title game in Division II-A in 2018. Recently Ryan wrapped up the fall and his TRA Football career as the quarterback for the Rebels helping them reach the playoffs.
Despite athletic success and receiving college interest, Peyton made up his mind about his future post high school.
“I was extremely proud and excited for what I know he’s about to experience,” Michael said. “The things and people he’s going to meet, the training he’s going to receive, being in the military is an amazing experience. Now I know he’s going to do that I can guide him through some of the trails. If nothing else, you’re away from home. And you not around familiar people and familiar surroundings.”
Michael is looking forward to coaching his son on the next chapter in his life. And he believes the previous lessons taught by Jenifer and himself will serve his son well. Peyton has maintained straight A’s this past semester and has a grade point average near 3.8. Peyton is also a member of the Beta Club and National Honor Society.
“It’s engrained in him that hard work and that kind of mentality,” he said. “His mother and I tell him it’s all about hard work and effort. You reap what you sow, that kind of mentality started when he was so young that he didn’t even understand the English language. There’s been trails and tribulations along the way and we taught him, ‘Man push through it. You can do it.’”
Peyton believes he can do it and will reach all his future goals while gaining something priceless.
“The experience that I will have like seeing new things,” he said. I’ve definitely never done that. I’ll be gone for an extended period of time away from my family. I will have to learn how to live without them to an extent. College is pretty much like that also learning how to live without your family and getting your own job.”
But before Peyton heads off to the Air National Guard, he has some unfinished business with Rebel Baseball.
“Last year we went runner up at State,” he concluded. “We’re going hard this year to make it as State champions.”
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