During our MPG Messenger Search that took place on Facebook from December to the beginning of February, we were provided a fantastic opportunity to come into contact with a wide variety of individuals from a diverse array of athletic pursuits, all hoping to represent our brand in our Spring 2013 editorial campaign. The outpouring of enthusiasm was overwhelming and we were honoured by the response.
Unfortunately, there could ultimately only be one winner: Kelli Segars from FitnessBlender.com, who will soon be making her editorial premiere in the coming weeks. Our runner-up, however, has such an interesting story, we felt compelled to share:
Ryan Hamilton, from Beverly, Massachusetts, is an Iraq war veteran who discovered his love for fitness and muscle training whilst on tour in the Middle East and was prompted to enter the contest believing he represented both healthy living and in a larger, patriotic sense, America.
Ryan initially joined the army upon completing high school deciding academics were not for him but also intrigued by the concept of serving his country by becoming a part of Operation: Iraqi Freedom, though he concedes he was inspired by his younger brother’s decision to serve, as well. Both served as Military Policemen, coincidentally, in the same part of Baghdad and have both since been honourably discharged.
Embarking upon training for 21 weeks in Missouri followed by another 6 months in Colorado, Ryan was eventually deployed for a 15 month tour with the 110th MP Battalion, which was attached to the 10th Mountain Decision out of Fort Drum, New York.
Despite some decidedly harrowing experiences, Ryan recalls his experiences overseas fondly. Initially, acclimation to the heat proved challenging and required consuming massive amounts of water to stave off dehydration and of course, there was the requisite culture shock that comes with living anywhere new but the Iraqi people, he told us, were congenial and always friendly despite the strife that was taking place in their backyard. He was especially touched by their hospitality and generosity, specifically their willingness to share their last morsel of food.
Living in a warzone, however, meant Ryan was forced to endure rocket and mortar attacks on a weekly basis in Baghdad with the assaults doubled during his deployment in Ad Diwaniyah, located on the main rail corridor between Baghdad and Basra, for the last seven months of his tour. Small arms fire was also consistent nearly everywhere he was on patrol in addition to having to avoid ‘black’ roads that were classified as such due to the 95%+ chance one would take fire or encounter a roadside IED (improvised explosive device).
Being away from his family, in distressing circumstances, made homesickness an especially difficult challenge to overcome, especially during his grandmother’s illness. However, remaining on task and taking solace in his fellow soldiers provided Ryan the strength to stay focused and not let the distance between himself and his loved ones become a disability.
Participating in the Iraq war has drastically ‘opened his eyes,’ Ryan tells us, by illustrating how much he has to be thankful for and the security/safety many in the West perhaps might take for granted. Over there as a solider first, Ryan also acted as a goodwill ambassador at times by interacting with locals, distributing candy and soccer balls to children and training Iraqi police forces. Forming close bonds with the interpreters who were by their side at all times, Ryan was also able to learn about the intricacies and beauty found in Iraqi culture that is never shown on the nightly news.
Ryan admits returning to civilian life back in the States was an adjustment: Bereft of the security knowing his comrades were close by or the weapon he was never without left Ryan afraid of American life but with the help of family, friends and US veteran services, he was able to come down from ‘war mode’ to get back to normal life. No longer was danger a constant threat nor was every person he encountered a potential enemy.
A large part of that readjustment process has been Ryan’s continued adherence to training and concentrating on an active, healthy lifestyle. Having sworn off alcohol and maintaing a stringent routine provides Ryan a regimented lifestyle that, in part, echoes his experience in the army. Thankful to his trainer, powerlifting and bodybuilding champion and owner of Gym Warriors, a local gym in Peabody, MA, Pauly Desimone, Ryan is committed to his exercise and is on his way to earn his pro card.
Although he was unable to emerge triumphant in our Messenger Search, we are honoured to have had a war vet enter our contest and be willing to share his values with us. All of us here on the MPG Team wish Ryan the best of luck in his future endeavours and look forward to hearing back as he continues his fitness journey.
Check out his pics from the Messenger Search Contest below: