When you walk into Randolph Hall on SWOCC’s Coos Campus, you can hear laughter. It is hard not to follow the sound right into the Veterans Center to be a part of something good.
One tall, blond-haired man is always right in the middle of conversations there. To folks who do not know Ryan DeVore, he appears to be just another Vet Center work study student. Quiet-spoken. Smiling.
To those who know him, he’s much more.
“I’ve become a better person because of Ryan,” Shana Brazil said, as she watched him chatting with two students. “Ryan is so open to everything. Veterans can tell him anything, and he never looks down on them – ever. He never has anything negative to say.”
Shana is SWOCC’s Veteran Services Coordinator. She’s worked with vets at the college for years. She got to know Ryan a couple years ago. He was one of many disabled veterans coming to school to use GI Bill benefits to learn. Ryan found his way to her office. Shana liked him immediately. She asked if he would be her work-study student. Disappointingly, he said no. Three weeks later, Ryan returned. He asked if the job was still open.
Ryan and his wife, Jessie Courtright, grew up here and have family here. Ryan felt a connection to the college. Jessie graduated from SWOCC 18 years ago, he said, adding proudly she was the first woman to graduate in welding. Ryan applied to SWOCC in 2022 and got a Foundation scholarship. He is pursuing a science degree, but is working on a bigger mission. He believes his mission will improve the world in small, incremental ways long after he’s gone.
“I’m dying, you know. Slowly,” Ryan said, as he started telling his story. “I have organ failure.”
It is an autoimmune disorder that manifested as diabetes and Grave’s disease. Slowly, it has overcome his pancreas and now is destroying his liver and spleen. He’s waiting for it to attack his heart or his brain.
A person could let that eat away at him. That’s not Ryan’s story.
When he started his work study job, he learned that veterans club students tried to create a permanent scholarship for vets and their families. They made good progress in 2020 fundraising, until COVID killed the effort.
Ryan picked up the mission.
“It’s really important to help the soldiers and their dependents. They may be running out of benefits or needing a little extra help,” he said.
There’s a perception that if you serve in the military, you get free college, free job training. Some do. For others it is more complicated. Many older veterans’ benefits may have expired, or run out just short of the end of their schooling. For veterans with families, the monthly aid often does not stretch far enough.
Ryan knows personally, the value of a scholarship. It covers the bits and pieces. It eases worry. It helps to know someone cares.
His goal is to raise the scholarship fund to $50,000. The Vet Center is selling T-shirts. Ryan says he’s hoping to win the lottery. He launched a GoFundMe effort. Donations are trickling in.
“I’m trying to make the world a smarter place. It’s how I deal with my PTSD and ailments. If I’m going to be around, I’m going to try to make everybody’s day better,” Ryan said.
Ryan developed the mindset serving in the U.S. Army from 2002-16, until being medically discharged. He served at Fort Benning, Fort Stewart and Fort Hood. He also did two deployments to Iraq and one to Afghanistan. As a staff sergeant, Ryan watched over his soldiers. He cared for them not only at work, but in their home life and everything. If they needed something, he made sure they were taken care of.
“He’s brought that into the Vet Center a thousand times more than we ever had,” Shana said. “He just cares about the students. I appreciate it so much.”
Every day, Ryan keeps a candy jar ready for anyone who walks through the Vet Center door. He gets to know each veteran, their spouses, their children. He listens. When they need help, food or a friend, Ryan finds it for them. He connects them with things to do in the community. When some veterans’ car broke down recently, he picked them up and drove them to school.
“I’m just trying to live forward. I need as much good karma as I can find,” Ryan said, which is why this 42-year-old man’s mission is to finish creating the scholarship fund for veterans.
“This work-study money I get, it’s going to go to this project. I am working for free today for kids,” he said.
Now you have met Ryan DeVore. No, he is not just another work-study student. To those who know him, he is a hero.
If you would like to contribute to a permanent scholarship for veterans and their families click ‘Give’ to donate online. Put ‘Veterans Scholarship’ in the notes.Give
For more information about the veterans program at Southwestern visit www.socc.edu/veterans, call 541-888-7236 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.