From Soldier to Teacher: Brad Ryun’s Journey


Heather Smith

MCC Welding Teacher Brad Ryun helps a student. Photo by Heather Smith

After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks occurred 17 days before his 18th birthday, Brad Ryun knew what he wanted to do with his future.

He was going to follow his family’s legacy by enlisting in the United States Army.

“My grandfathers both served,” Ryun, industrial technology teacher and MCC Welding Academy Instructor, said. “One served in the Navy, one served in the Army, and the Army seemed like a better fit for me.”

Ryun began his journey in the military occupation of infantry, then progressed to convoy operations, where soldiers help move cargo through ground transportation.

“I started out as an infantryman and trained in combat,” Ryun said. “Then when we deployed, we were trained in convoy operations, so we protected convoys on the road.”

Ryun’s deployment to Iraq ended up being a year and a half long tour in 2005 through 2006. He was nervous about being away from his new family for such a long period of time.

“I was scared. I mean, we had trained for it, but I was recently married,” Ryun said. “My oldest baby was born five days before I got on the plane to go to Iraq. I was really nervous leaving them.”

It was not easy to be away from his young family for such a long time, especially with no solid way to communicate with them.

“We didn’t have cellphones then, so you couldn’t call, and you couldn’t talk to people,” Ryun said. “We did a little MSN Messenger (an instant messaging platform). We could do a little video chat every once in a while, but it was pretty few and far between.”

Overall, Ryun spent 12 years in the Army before deciding to leave. Post-war was a boring time for him, and he was tired of being away from home.

“It got a little too young for me after wartime was done,” Ryun said. “Peacetime is a really boring time to be in the military. I was a combat veteran, so I was used to shooting and training for real-world situations.”

After the military, Ryun was convinced by his wife to earn a teaching degree.

“I was just going to go into construction. I grew up swinging hammers with my old man. When I got out of the military, I wasn’t quite ready to go back into the workforce,” Ryun said.  “My wife had just graduated from UNL as an Agriculture teacher. I took some time off, and she took a job in Emerson, Nebraska. She said ‘hey the government’s going to pay to go get a degree, you should go get a degree.’ I got into education and got my job here at Fremont, and I love what I do.”

Being in the Army taught Ryun good skills. He attributes those skills to helping him be a better teacher in the classroom.

“I think that it taught me a sense of responsibility; it gave me a good head on my shoulders. It helps me stand in front of classes and talk to them and lead them and try to get them to do the right things.”