Wounded Marion Marine on road to recovery

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MARION - A Marine who was wounded in a blast in Afghanistan in late May still has a long way to go to meet his goal of returning to duty.

In the meantime, though, Ryan McSweeny, 20,  wants to thank the community for its outpouring of support.

McSweeny was on foot patrol in Afghanistan when an improvised explosive device (IED) went off, wounding both him and others in his unit.  Initially, it was reported that McSweeny, a Marion Independent School graduate, was in grave condition, which prompted friends to organize a prayer vigil attended by hundreds.  Within 24 hours,  word came that McSweeny was recovering.

On Sept. 10, friends in Marion got a chance to see just how far McSweeny has come. Now on a 30-day leave, he will go to his base in Hawaii in early October to enter a "wounded warrior" program. His job in the coming months will entail a lot of what he was up to Thursday -- sweating and straining in a physical therapy session to restore movement and rebuild his strength.

“I want to stay in,” McSweeny said about the military, “because all my buddies are in Afghanistan and what I really want to do is get back to them.”

A number of McSweeny's bones were broken in the IED blast, and pieces of metal shrapnel were embedded throughout his body.  McSweeny said doctors removed pieces in 14 or 15 sessions while he was hospitalized, but there’s probably some fragments still in his body that will just have to work their way out.  His mother, Kim, has kept a few pieces ranging in size from BBs to small ball bearings in a jar.

McSweeny said looking around his hospital ward in Maryland reminded him just how lucky he was.

“Out of 28 Marines (in the ward), there’s only two of us who didn’t lose a limb which was really fortunate.  There’s a lot of guys who lost more than I did,” he said.

Since McSweeny has returned to Marion, a number of his school friends and others have come by to see how he’s doing.  He also will serve as grand marshal of the high school's  homecoming parade on Oct. 6.

His mother said the community's support is nearly as big of a part of the recovery as the medicine.

“Oh, that’s really, really important—not only to us as a family but also to him (Ryan).  It meant a lot, the thoughts, the prayers, the support,” Kim McSweeny said.

Ryan McSweeny said he signed a four-year-contract with the Marines that doesn’t expire until 2014. “I don’t want to bail out of that,” he said, adding “I want to go back to my buddies.”

A Marine board will eventually decide if McSweeny has recovered enough to resume active duty.

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