After Iraq and Afghanistan, Sherwood veteran
finds purpose at American Legion
Ryan Neal Shockley served in Iraq and Afghanistan in the U.S. Army and was impressed by what he saw in both countries.
However, he’d rather talk about his service with American Legion Post 56 in Sherwood than his time overseas.
Shockley is a four-year Legion member and was elected to become a Legion Post service officer last year.
Along with his wife, Jill, and son, Bair, Shockley lives in Sherwood after growing up in San Jose, California.
Shockley was stationed in Iraq at Jisr Diyala in 2009 and Taji from 2009 to 2010. Shockley later served in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, in 2011.
Before Afghanistan and Iraq, Shockley was initially assigned to Baumholder, Germany, as a combat engineer.
As it did for many young men and women, the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks drove Shockley to enlist in the armed forces.
“I actually joined out of San Jose,” Shockley recounted. “My recruiter — I remember his name, Sergeant Hunn — (was) a great guy who wanted to see the best for me and guided me from a high school student to a private in training.”
Serving in the Army from 2004 to 2014, Shockley’s service includes the 82nd Airborne Division, 20th Engineer Brigade Combat Airborne, 1st Cavalry Division, and 445 Civil Affairs USACAPOC — a lengthy acronym for United States Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command.
In Iraq, Shockley said, “I learned to speak a little bit of Arabic. They were fantastic people. I can’t speak highly enough about that patrol mission.”
After coming back to the United States, Shockley returned to Iraq, then to Afghanistan.
Speaking of Afghanistan, Shockley said, “The amount of violence against the backdrop of the beauty of that country is unique.”
As dangerous as Afghanistan was — and continues to be, with the Taliban seizing control of the country as U.S. forces withdrew in 2021 — Shockley remembers being amazed by the waterfalls, poppy fields, and natural wonders of Afghanistan.
“Jalalabad and the surrounding area is beautiful,” Shockley said.
But these days, Shockley prefers discussing his work with the American Legion.
According to American Legion Post 56 in Sherwood: “While the majority of a Service Officer’s work involves applications for VA disability benefits, they also provide information, referrals and resources on education, employment, business, housing, food banks, death benefits and other important topics.”
In his own words, Shockley explained, “I am the first step if somebody is getting out of the Army. I am a collection point, and I have a great network of people who I actually deal with.”
Shockley doesn’t consider himself a mentor to younger veterans, but he is working toward becoming a veterans service officer, or VSO.
“I am actually starting to go through the school to be that mentor,” he said. “In probably the next two years, I will become (a veterans service officer), which is actually an appointed position through the Veterans Administration itself.”
Shockley added, “I am also part of the state leadership team, so I work on our veterans’ employment and education.”
Speaking of his fellow vets, Shockley admits he may tease another vet if they are in another military service outside the Army — interservice rivalries being as they are. Still, he added, “I will make sure they are squared away and that they are taken care of.”
In his off time, Shockley enjoys painting, trap shooting and enjoying his three dogs, Zoe, Gunner and Maximillian. He also loves to follow the National Hockey League, particularly teams on the East Coast. But he most enjoys giving back to his fellow veterans.
As for Legion Post 56 in Sherwood, Shockley said, “This is the best support system — right here.”