On an October day that started with rain, I embarked on a journey to the summit of Cadillac Mountain with the stone that represents the life of a true American. MSgt. Ryan Love’s story is one that will never leave me. He was a man who worked for his country. He LIVED for his country. The colors of our nation’s flag ran through his veins. He honorably served through seven deployments, never once questioning his dedication. He was five short years from retirement when he lost the greatest battle he ever faced…the one in his heart and his mind. The stigma of suicide is a terrifying reality, and daily we lose more of the great men and women of the armed forces to this sad tragedy. The families are left behind with nothing but their memories.
Master Sergeant Ryan Love grew up in Waldo County, in the small town of Frankfort. After graduating from Searsport District High School, he joined the Air Force, but later found his calling was as a Marine, enlisting in 1997. His competitive spirit helped him as he rose quickly through the ranks as a fierce and tenacious Infantryman. He returned to Parris Island in 2005, this time with the mission of molding young new recruits. His achievements took him from Drill Instructor to Senior Drill Instructor, to Series Gunnery Sergeant. He was a Marine, and put his all into living as a Marine. “Semper Fidelis” is the Marine Corps motto- its meaning: “always faithful.” The Marine Corps is more than a brotherhood, more than a team…becoming a Marine is a change in lifestyle and thought forever. Marine Officers live by a set of ethics and values that is exemplary. Like all other Marine Corps officers, MSgt. Love led by example. He was stationed in Kosovo and the Mediterranean, and served two tours of duty in Iraq.
MSgt. Love was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Gold Star in lieu of 2nd award, the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with Gold Star in lieu of 2nd award, and the Combat Action Ribbon with Gold Star in lieu of 2nd award. He was known among his fellow Marines as a friend, a leader , and a brother.
The Summit Project allows those of us who share Ryan’s story to send a message of hope to those who may be feeling hopeless, and support to those walking a fine line. As civilians who never have experienced combat situations this is difficult to comprehend, but for those like Ryan the pain must be unbearable for them to feel that they have no other choice. We all need to hold Ryan and his family close to our hearts, and for every time we hear his name or hold his stone, we need to reach out to those around us to make sure they’re connected with people who can help them climb back from the desperation…without judgment or stigma. We need to tell Ryan’s story so that others realize there is hope and help. Sadly, I never had the chance to meet this small town boy, but I am grateful to have had the opportunity to learn about his prankster side, about the laughs that he created here on this earth, and about the things and people he loved.
On July 19, 2011, the day he took his own life, Ryan reported to his eternal duty station and, as the last verse of the Marine Corps Hymn says, is now, along with his Marine brothers, “Guarding The Streets of Heaven.”
“If the Army and the Navy ever look on Heaven’s scenes, they will find the streets are guarded by United States Marines.”
Marine MSgt. Love was cut from a very special piece of cloth, and lived a life of honor. Rest easy, Marine, and thank you for your service. You are deeply missed.
If you are in crisis, please call 1-800-273-8255. You are not alone, and there is help.