Santa Paula Times

Army Spec. Ryan Stewart injured by mortar shell explosion in Iraq

May 19, 2004
Santa Paula News
By Peggy Kelly Santa Paula TimesThe battles in Iraq hit home for a Santa Paula family who learned that their son was injured on Friday.Army Specialist Ryan Stewart, the son of Dr. Chuck Stewart DDS, was injured on the third day that troops were attacking a mosque holding Iraqi insurgents, said Brenda Stewart, Ryan’s step-mother.The 26-year-old Ryan, now in his third year of Army duty, was on foot patrol with his unit stationed in Karbala, covering two of his patrol members who were crossing the street. Without warning, a mortar round exploded behind Ryan, sending shrapnel into his lower back.“He had his vest on, that saved his life,” said Brenda.Ryan was medi-vaced to Ramstien Air Force Base in Germany and taken to the Landstuhl Hospital on the base.Although the family was poised to be flown by the Army to the base in Germany be with Ryan during surgery and his recovery, doctors discovered that the shrapnel was too close to Ryan’s intestines to operate. But, “We might make the trip anyway. . .he’s doing very well,” Brenda notedThe family was notified that Ryan had been injured when a “very nice Lieutenant called and said he felt uneasy but that he had to read the report of how our son was injured. . .that just brought it all home. We’ve been told that once they’re medi-vaced out of Iraq they never go back so the war is over for Ryan,” noted Brenda.Like other American troops, Ryan was to have seen the end of his Iraqi service, but just an hour short of his initial departure from the war zone he learned his tour of war duty had been extended.
“We’re very relieved that it’s not worse and very relieved that it looks like it’s going to be a good injury,” that will release Ryan from the fighting in Iraq, where almost 800 Americans troops have been killed, many in the last several months of battle.A graduate of Rancho Bernardo High School where he lived with his mother, Gay Eichhoff, Ryan entered the service “mainly to take advantage,“ of the educational benefits accorded veterans, said Chuck.The last time the family spoke to Ryan before he was injured was on Mother’s Day evening.“He was basically telling us that he was involved in these kinds of missions everyday: bullets were flying and he was firing back, but everything was okay at that point,” Chuck noted. “We didn’t know where he was the two weeks before he was injured. . .”It is unknown at this time how long Ryan will be hospitalized or where he will be sent after his release.“I talked to him Sunday night and he thought they would put him in a non-deployable job in the states for the rest of his enlistment and we’re waiting to hear how long he will be hospitalized,” said Chuck. “He’s out of there now and that’s our blessing.”“Ryan’s going to be home soon, so there you go,” said Brenda.