SPC Ryan French returned from a year long deployment in Afghanistan on May 1, 2013. SPC French is a combat medic attached to the 306th Military Intelligence Unit and was stationed at Bagram Airfield in Bagram, Afghanistan.
SPC French grew up in Borger after his family moved from Oklahoma when he was in grade school. Most of his friends and family were not surprised by his decision to early enlist in the US Army during his Junior year of high school at Borger High. “Ryan has always had a passion for serving his country. Our dad served in Vietnam, Grandpa Willard served in Korea, Grandpa Sam served in WW II, along with many other family members, 'Love of Country' is in our blood,” related his sister Whitney Lehman.
While attending Borger schools SPC French was active in many activities and worked at various establishments. During that time you could usually find him and his friends at Lake Meredith camping or off-roading on the river bed on the weekends.
High school friend Matthew Archer recalls some of those times. “I remember during our senior year, we all put CB's in our vehicles. We would play hide and seek throughout Borger. You could almost always find Ryan in one of two places, behind Hastings or behind Johnson Park Church. The reason for those hiding places was it was a good place to launch his Ford Ranger pickup. When you got close to finding him, he would floor it and launch the truck. You always knew where Ryan was.”
After his high school graduation in May of 1995 he was sent to basic training and then airborne school at Fort Benning, Georgia. SPC French served a potion of his four years in Arlington, Virginia as a member of the Honor Guard. After his first enlisted ended he worked in the oilfield and then attended the Fire Fighting Academy in Farmington, NM where he also became an EMT-B. He then went to work for Clovis Fire Department as an EMT and fire fighter.
In January 2011, at age 34, SPC French made the decision to once again serve his country and put his training in emergency medicine to use. “Dad told me that we where two peas in a pod. I am a proud Army daughter. His strength to go through this for his country has really inspired me.” said Savannah French, SPC French's daughter.
He was again sent to Fort Benning for basic training and then to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio for Combat Medic training. After completion of the training at Fort Sam Houston he was stationed at Fort Hood in Killeen. From there he was sent to Afghanistan on May 3, 2012.
While in-country SPC French made good use of his time by volunteering with the “Cat in the Hat” reading program for young Afghan children. “He loved helping the young Afghan boys and girls learn to read in English.
He even purchased several Afghan language books to make the communication between he and his students better.” stated his father David French. “The personal growth Ryan had during his year in Afghanistan is remarkable. Knowing he is back in the USA is priceless!” says his mother Helen Wilmer.
SPC French received two weeks of leave during the Christmas holiday season of 2012. His flights brought him to Amarillo where many of his family members waited to greet him with a banner and flags in hand. “Watching our solider walk off that plane in Amarillo was something I will never forget. There were other people standing around waiting on their family members and even another solider coming home for Christmas. While Ryan walked off the plane others clapped and cheered for him while he hugged his grandmothers. I am very proud of my brother and very happy our family, including my children, got to experience that moment in time,” says Whitney Lehman.
His family and friends had many celebrations throughout the two week period where he was able to visit with several, including a former teacher, Mrs. Jenny Close.
“When I taught seventh grade reading at Borger Middle School it was always apparent to me the kind of upbringing my students had. Ryan was polite, hard-working and never gave me a problem. That French blood was definitely strong and proud. That's why I was wasn't surprised when I learned that he was serving our country in the Armed Forces. We reconnected on Facebook and I was privileged to experience his good and bad days in Afghanistan. Ryan visited me at my office when he was on leave during Christmas. He wasn't that seventh grade student any longer; he had grown into a man, but he was still as polite and genuine as I remembered. I'll never forget that day and the lump in my throat as we visited. I felt so humbled to have had even a small part in the wonderful example of American's finest!” says Mrs. Close.
SPC Ryan French, a true American Hero, has touched many lives with his unselfish love and duty to country. His family and friends are very proud of him and are very thankful SPC French's unit suffered no causalities during their tour of duty.
“I believe that Ryan is doing what he was born to do. When we were kids, if someone was getting picked on he would help them. He was always trying to help and protect someone who could not do it for themselves. To me it's a natural fit for him to be a Combat Medic in the Army. I have many reason to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for Ryan. He is willing to sacrifice and put his life in danger to protect the freedom that we so desperately love here in America. I thank God that he protected Ryan while he was deployed in Afghanistan. I am very thankful for my brother and all the service men and women that say 'here I am, send me, I will go.' I pray for all of our soldiers and for the leadership over them. May God continue to bless and protect Ryan, our soldiers and American.” states Travis French, SPC French's brother.
SPC French is currently back at Fort Hood where he will enlist for another three year tour to be served as a Combat Medic at Fort Richardson, Alaska.
SPC French's family: parents, Nancy and David French of Borger and Helen and Don Wilmer of Canute, Ok.; grandparents, Wilma and the late Sam Mercer of Borger, Marty and the late Wat Watkins of Elk City, Ok and the late Joy and Willard French of Elk City; daughter, Savannah French of Phoenix, Az; siblings, Micha and Traivs French of Borger and Whitney and Cory Lehman of Dalhart and nephews and niece, Colton, Corban and Carly Lehman and the rest of the family would like to thank everyone for all of their thoughts and prayers for SPC Ryan French during his deployment.