“I used to love the outdoors before I was injured,” Ryan Major said.
For Major the water was his life. But after getting injured while serving in Iraq in 2006 his life changed. Then he met Joe Mornini.
“We started Team River Runner in 2004 at Walter Reed, that’s where we meet a lot of the veterans that are here they come through Walter Reed for treatments or wounded sustained in life or in combat,” Joe Mornini, Executive Director with Team River Runner said.
Mornini met Ryan there at Walter Reed Hospital just two years after Mornini started the Team River Runner Program. He encouraged Ryan to get involved in their adaptive sports program.
“They helped him to get back into the water, they taught him to swim again and ride in a kayak,” Lori Major, Ryan’s mom said.
Now, over 10 years later, Ryan is involved with Team River Runner’s kayak fundraisers benefiting other veterans. He was one of the dozen team members involved in Sundays race in St. John. 100% of the proceeds from this race go to continuing to bring down wounded veterans to the island for a one week leadership retreat.
“It’s helped me tremendously and I am here to help support and encourage the other vets that are coming out here that they still have the rest of their lives to live and try to give them a more positive outlook,” Ryan said.
Team River Runner is now in 31 states, with 65 chapters providing programs to wounded veterans. But Mornini likes to make sure they get back to St. John, every November.
“My family and I have been coming to St. John sine 2001, camping down at Cinnamon Bay, we love the snorkelling and the kayaking and I said let’s bring veterans down here and have some leadership and have them be involved with this great island culture, St. John strong and snorkel and kayak,” Mornini added.
For Ryan’s family, Team River Runner has been more than an adventure group, it’s a support. Right when Ryan needed it the most.
His mother Lori said she doesn’t know where they would be without it.
“It would have been very difficult, of course it has been a difficult journey in and of itself just with the injuries that my son sustained but having organizations such as Team River Runner to help get these veterans back, back into the community back into competition as they did before they were injured so it’s been a great help.”
Ryan doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon. He said will be back again this time next year, for the vets, the kayaking and the water.
“All I know is it is like 30 degrees back home so I’m like yes!” Ryan said.
The event in St. John raised nearly $27,000 for the Team River Runner Program to continue doing trips like this for wounded vets.