Sergeant First Class (SFC) Ryan Hendrickson is a brave, determined, and courageous soldier — a Green Beret clearing the way for his twelve-man team while conducting combat operations against the Taliban.
As the “tip of the spear,” his role is to insure the route taken by U.S. and Afghan troops are free of IEDs — improvised explosive devices. Many soldiers do not survive their last step; those who do often lose at least one limb. While rescuing an Afghan soldier outside a mud-hut compound in 2010 — knowing that he was in “uncleared” territory — Ryan stepped on an IED with his right foot. The device exploded, leaving his foot dangling at the end of his leg.
American soldiers losing a limb is an all-too-common occurrence. But what makes Ryan’s story different is that after undergoing two dozen surgeries and a tortuous rehabilitation, he was medically retired but fought to return to active duty.
Multiple skin grafts to his lower leg and right foot successfully reattached his lower leg, and he was aided in his recovery by wearing a new prosthetic device known as an IDEO (Intrepid Dynamic Exoskeletal Orthosis).
Once he passed a series of crucial physical tests, Ryan was able to rejoin the Green Berets within a year and physically perform his duties, redeploying to Afghanistan in March 2012. In 2016, he volunteered to return to Afghanistan with Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group. During a firefight with the Taliban, he risked his life under heavy enemy fire to rescue three Afghan soldiers cut off from friendly forces and return the bodies of two dead Afghan soldiers under the ethos that “no one gets left behind.”
For his heroic efforts on the battlefield, SFC Ryan Hendrickson was awarded a Silver Star, the nation’s third-highest award for valor.
An engaging and harrowing account, Tip of the Spear tells the amazing story of one Green Beret’s indomitable spirit.
Tell me a little about your book “Tip Of The Spear”.
My book Tip of the Spear has a little bit of everything from action, adventure, loss, overcoming, and the never-quit spirit. I walk through my time in the military along with the events of Sept 12th, 2010 when I stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and everything that went into my leg getting reattached, rehab, and the mental and emotional minefields which I had to travel through. Although I go through my whole life in the book, I really focused on situations that I have faced in life and what it took me to either overcome or pick myself back up again refusing to become a victim of these circumstances.
How has writing your book helped you personally? And changed the way you think?
Writing helped me in many ways I did not know was possible. I was able to put thoughts, feelings, concerns, and experiences down on paper which really made me more Intune to my life. This journey in writing did not start out as a book but was writing therapy for me. After all, was said and done, I knew I had a message which could reach many so I turned what I had into a book.
What is the biggest takeaway that you hope a reader will learn from “Tip Of The Spear”?
My overall message which I would hope a reader can take away from my book is to take control of your life. Bad things happen in life all the time and we are all faced with our personal IEDs but to take control of your life and refuse to become a victim of these hurdles is my personal message which I wanted to share.
What books are you reading right now?
Currently I am reading John Stryker book Across the Fence which is about MAC-V SOG teams in Vietnam
Why is reading important for our Military and/or the Nation?
Reading and education are extremely important for the military and our nation as a whole. Expanding your mind to aspects or ideas once foreign to you is a powerful thing. Many times I have listened to people who voice their opinions, or what they think are facts with no evidence to back their claims, they just believe it to be true and refuse to broaden their horizons. Someone who will take the time to read and do research on subjects keeping an open mind as to the information they are receiving is what truly makes not only an educated being but are the traits of sound and good leadership.
General Mattis talks a lot about using reading as a tool to learn from other people’s experiences. Can you provide a specific example or story where reading has helped you learn from others’ experiences?
I have read a lot of books on Americans’ involvement in Afghanistan from the CIA during the Russian occupation, Sept 11th, 2001, and decisions made to go to war all the way up to where we are today. I have deployed to Afghanistan many times and in my first few deployments I didn’t really seek out the reasons of “why I was even there.” After a few deployments and talking to fellow military members, I found out that many of us knew it had to do with 9-11 but that was it. Because I was going to be in Afghanistan a lot I decided to broaden my mindset on to the WHY I was standing on Afghan soil as an American. I looked back at the different wars Afghanistan had with the British, Russia, and now Americans involvement. I researched decisions made, mistakes made by leaders as well as successes, and I learned as much as I could about the Afghan people and culture. Now when I deploy, I have the knowledge and I can back my thoughts and opinions with actual educated research, not just uneducated thoughts.
What is one of the best investments you’ve ever made in your military career?
The best investment I made in my military career was to my family, faith, and myself. Over the years I had let the military become who I was inside and out. My life revolved around being a Green Beret and Army Special Forces but I was neglecting my family, faith, and myself. Finally being able to take a step back and force myself to change my priorities, makes me a better soldier, family man and I begin to enjoy being myself again.
Ryan Hendrickson is a Special Forces Engineer in the U.S. Army. Ryan transferred over to the Army in 2008 after completing enlistments in both the Navy and Air Force. Ryan has many military deployments including Iraq, Afghanistan, and several South and Central American countries. Ryan’s decorations include the Silver Star, four Bronze Stars, a Purple Heart, and an Army Commendation Medal with Valor. When not abroad, he calls Florida home.