Ryan Ahl | Pennsylvania National Guard
On episode 3 of Longest War, the podcast of VBC’s Post-9/11 Veterans Storytelling Project, we have an in-depth conversation with Pa National Guard veteran, Ryan Ahl, about deploying to Iraq as an infantryman, post-traumatic stress, commissioning as an officer, and helping fellow veterans though the VA’s community-based Vet Centers.
The Global War on Terror is our nation’s first war fought with an all-volunteer military—and it is also our longest war.
Those who served since the attacks of September 11, 2001 are called post-9/11 veterans. They number more than 3.7 million and make up nearly 18% of the total veteran population. Nearly 12% of all veterans in Pennsylvania served since 9/11.
Compared to WWII, Korea, and Vietnam-era veterans, post-9/11 veterans are young and more racially, ethnically, and gender diverse. The number of women who’ve served since 9/11 is more than double any previous generation. More than 25% of post-9/11 veterans have a service connected disability, with far more suffering from the psychological trauma of war. About half of all post-9/11 vets served with someone who was killed. The suicide rate among post-9/ll veterans is alarming.
Yet, post-9/11 veterans are among our nation’s best, brightest, patriotic, and productive citizens. As President Obama said, “Across our country, veterans who fought to protect our democracy around the globe are strengthening it here at home. Once leaders in the armed forces, they are now pioneers of industry and pillars of their communities.”
At war or home, the post-9/11 veteran experience is certainly unlike any other. The particular social, economic, and political issues facing our young veterans are, naturally, of our time. Their stories bear this out, revealing experiences that are far more complicated than we assume, understand, or oftentimes accept.
Rather than judge, our aim is to understand the experiences of post-9/11 veterans through their stories, in their own words. That’s why the Veterans Breakfast Club launched its Post-9/11 Veterans Storytelling Project creating communities of listening around post-9/11 veterans and their stories ensuring that their experiences will be shared with and appreciated by the public.
The Longest War podcast is an extension of this effort, featuring stories and conversations about Pittsburgh-area post-9/11 veterans.
Episode 3 was recorded August 23, 2016. Host: Nick Grimes. Guest: Ryan Ahl. Audiography: Kevin Farkas/Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Initiative.