2022 Tillman Scholar
One day, Ryan Erik Benally found himself driving a Humvee carrying his fellow military brothers and sisters down the road, providing crucial security for an explosives ordinance device unit whose sole purpose was to clear IEDs off the roadways in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Never in a million years would he have thought his enlistment into the U.S. Marine Corps would have taken him to the far reaches of the planet to serve his country and protect his countrymen abroad. Ryan served with the Marine Corps for four years, which included two deployments to Iraq. Having spent nearly half his enlistment overseas on deployment, he began to appreciate the freedoms we have as Americans and unwavering support of his family and friends. Mission after mission eventually turned into tense combat situations with his fellow Marines.
These events taught him how effective training could turn the tide in your favor with prudent planning and instruction. Values could be learned and taught. Upon exiting active duty service, he worked to obtain his bachelor’s degree in financial management. Yet, the act of service to the community never left Ryan. He volunteered his time and experience to help build up his home community on the Navajo Nation. Lack of basic services and infrastructure in his community led Ryan to continue his education in a master’s program in the field of construction management and technology at Arizona State University. Ryan intends to use his education to help build a better community back home.