WHEATON – Ryan Ahern, a retired U.S. Army Green Beret, has been honored many times for the actions he took during his military service.
But being honored by Cub Scout Pack 382 as part of a ceremony at Briar Glen Elementary School on May 21 was truly special to the 45-year-old Glen Ellyn resident. Ahern grew up in Lisle and was a 1990 graduate of Benet Academy.
"[Those other ceremonies] were a little more formal and not as personal as the Cub Scouts asking for me to come out and see how happy the kids are just to take pictures with me," Ahern said. "That's even better than the big awards."
In his years of combat service, Ahern has received several awards, including the Silver Star, Bronze Star and Purple Heart by the U.S. military. He was awarded the Silver Star — the United States' third-highest award for valor — for helping to save the lives of injured soldiers in Afghanistan in December 2009 while protecting a French military unit. Ahern also received two Purple Hearts for separate incidents in Afghanistan.
This was the fifth consecutive year Pack 382 has been involved in a flag ceremony in front of the Briar Glen student body to honor a United States veteran. The event was held in advance of Memorial Day, which is May 28.
As part of the ceremony, the members of Pack 382 presented a new flag to Briar Glen Principal Mitch Dubinsky that will be flown in front of the school. A flag-raising ceremony had to be scrapped because of rain, and the event was moved to the school's gym.
Playing bagpipes during the ceremony was Dave Johnston of Glen Ellyn. Johnston is from Scotland, and on May 16, he became a U.S. citizen. He has two daughters who attend Briar Glen.
Although Johnston participates in other activities at the school, this was the first time he was part of the flag ceremony. He said the experience was even more special for him because he just became a U.S. citizen.
"I'm honoring the flag as a U.S. citizen, which is extra special to me," Johnston said.