A month before Ryan Blum started his freshman year of high school, his father was killed in a cycling accident. Like most teenagers, he rebelled. With the loss of his father came a profound loss of discipline in his life. College was the last thing on his mind. He would consider himself an “ideal candidate for an ‘absentee father’ case study” and at age 17, he was an Army recruiter’s dream. With his mother’s anxious signature, he enlisted in the U.S. Army. Ryan is a three-time deployed combat veteran in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he managed up to 36 Soldiers in both training and during war with the Army's 10th Mountain Division, where he had over 600 combat missions from urban Baghdad to the mountains of Afghanistan. He was awarded with five Army Commendation Medals (one for Valor and two Army Achievement Medals) and earned the Combat Infantryman's Badge, Expert Infantryman's Badge, Parachutist Badge, and Mountain Warfare Badge.
After his honorable discharge from the Army in 2012, Ryan moved to the northwest suburbs of Chicago and enrolled at McHenry County College. Though Ryan only attended MCC for one academic year, he definitely made an impression on faculty staff and fellow military veterans! He was the President of Student Veterans of America (SVA) McHenry County College chapter, where he played in active role in the Veterans Assistance Commission (VAC). He was constantly reaching out to veterans in McHenry County and MCC, encouraging them to get involved on campus, help in fundraising efforts, and he was always there to listen to any issues that they had. Ryan was instrumental in getting veterans to file their claims through VAC and played an instrumental role in having over $8 million dollars in funding provided to McHenry County Veterans. With a 3.79 GPA, Ryan was a member of Phi Theta Kappa honors society and received a fulltime scholarship to attend American University in Paris, France.
While finishing his degree at American University, Ryan is currently working with the U.S. Department of Commerce's International Trade Administration (ITA). At the ITA, he works to strengthen the competitiveness of U.S. industry abroad, promotes trade and investment, and ensures fair trade through the rigorous enforcement of international trade laws and agreements.
Ryan also consider himself an “essayist.” He has published writings in the New York Times, Foreign Policy, Ramen IR, and Peacock Magazine. In one of his publishings, Ryan wrote the following: “For many of my fellow veterans college may not just be a place for learning, but also for healing. It was for me.”