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thedrifter
07-12-09, 09:04 AM
This Marine is still fighting, this time for the kids

By DAN GOOD, Staff Writer, 609-272-7218 | Posted: Sunday, July 12, 2009 |

James Ryan's hair is buzzed to the scalp, just as it's been for the past three decades. Marine style. He wears cut-off sweatpants and a T-shirt and florescent vest, and if not for the vest, you'd think he was preparing for a fistfight or eating contest.

But then he starts talking about children. Toys. Dreams. And Ryan's eyes well with "Old Yeller" tears, the kind that soak into his flourescent vest.

"It really gets you choked up to see the joy in their faces and make a child's Christmas special," he said.

Ryan is a member of the Marine Corps League's Cape-Atlantic Detachment. He might be the nation's most heavily-decorated MCL member younger than 50. Distinguished service awards. Military order of Devil Dogs. Right now he has a red ribbon. Soon he's going to have a gold one.

But in the meantime he's raising money - and later this year, collecting toys - for Toys for Tots. The Marine Corps League is holding "Christmas in July" fundraising events to prepare for this year's gift season. Due to the economy, this year's need is up about 40 percent over last year.

That's 40 percent more families who can't afford presents. Forty percent more children who could wake up Dec. 25 to a sad scene. Ryan doesn't want that to happen. He wants to raise $13,000 on his own. By Sept. 1. A lot of that money will come from his pocket.

"As long as I have enough money to survive, that's all that matters to me," he said.

Ryan served actively in the Marines from 1980 to 1987. Involved in conflict, not combat. He can't talk about the places he's been ... not for publication, anyway, since they were covert missions. Sit with Ryan for a few hours and he might spout some locations, but just like the missions, the disclosure might as well have never happened.

Now he runs Car Masters, an Ocean City car and home powerwashing company.

He drives for the Hero Campaign, taking 4,717 drunkards home from the bar in the past half-decade so they don't get behind the wheel of a car and do something they're going to regret. And he's up three hours later, back to work, doing something else to help someone.

Ryan is used to limited sleep. Learned that in the Marines. Kept watch overnight. He and his comrades would switch between wake and sleep, and sometimes if a fellow Marine would doze off he would put his fist under the sleepy Marine's arm to keep him upright.

Instead of sleepy Marines, now he's holding up children to ensure they have a happy Christmas.

E-mail Dan Good:

DGood@pressofac.com

Ellie