Ryan Curtin was busy when he learned he would need major chest surgery. He was starting his senior year of high school—scrimmaging with his soccer team, working on his Eagle Scout project, and volunteering at the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society thrift shop, all while maintaining top grades. But when doctors realized a birth defect had started affecting Ryan’s heart, he had to drop everything to have surgery, in which a titanium bar was placed in his chest, followed by a long and painful recovery.
“Seeing Ryan work and struggle to regain his physical strength so he could get back to school and back on the soccer field was an inspiration,” said Ryan’s mother, Lisa Curtin, who was the recently the interim director of NMCRS Corpus Christi. Ryan’s father, Captain Rex Curtin, is the Commanding Officer (Commodore) of Training Air Wing FOUR, the Chief of Naval Air Training’s Multi-Engine Training Wing, based at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi. Captain Curtin nominated his son for the military child of the year award after being so impressed with Ryan’s perseverance and resilience, not only after his surgery but throughout his time as a military kid.
“The biggest challenge is moving so often,” Ryan said. “It’s something you hear from every military kid. Just getting used to all the new states and meeting new friends. I kind of got used to the moving later on and actually ended up enjoying it. It’s interesting to meet new people every few years.”
Ryan has gained this perspective after nine moves around the country, which meant nine new schools, Boy Scout troops, and soccer teams. He admits it wasn’t always easy. “I also used to hate that my dad was gone all the time,” he recalled. “Now that I’m older I see everything being a military kid has taught me. It’s made us all really close and I appreciate everything it’s done. It ‘s rewarding in the end even though it’s tough during the process.”
After he graduates in May, Ryan plans to study behavioral neuroscience at Northeastern University in Boston and go on to become a doctor in the Navy. He now understands the value of military life. “I love the community and how dedicated it is to one cause,” he said. “I don’t think any other organization has this kind of camaraderie and dedication to service and helping others. It’s been a pleasure to grow up around that type of person and it’s really taught me a lot.”
Ryan’s advice to other military kids: “I would say get involved as much as possible. That helps you quickly adjust to a new place and meet people who have the same goals and service attitude. I’ve met all of my friends through school sports and volunteering. I would tell anyone it’s the best way to make friends and feel good like you belong in a new place. And stay close to your family. Your family’s enough. When you move during the summer, you don’t know anyone else sometimes. That’s made us all really close.”
“All of our families and all the recipients shared the thought that these kids are amazing and wonderful and are representative of all military kids,” said Lisa Curtin. “None of them felt like they specifically deserved the award but they wanted to bring awareness to what military kids go through. They are all cognizant that they’re one of many.”
Ryan was honored, alongside military children of the year from other branches of the service, in a ceremony in Arlington on April 10, where he received $5000 from Operation Homefront, a laptop computer, and a Kindle. Singer Bret Michaels, who appeared at the event, also gave $2000 to each honoree. Lisa Curtin said Ryan plans to save the money to pay for a semester abroad in college.
“Military kids do not have a choice in this lifestyle, but what they do and how they rise to the top is amazing,” said Lisa Curtin.