In early 2001, Ryan McCarthy was on his way out of the Army.
The Army Ranger had been in the infantry since September 1997 and his service obligation had ended. He had the option to get out, and was planning on taking it.
But that, along with everything else, changed on September 11th. His unit was called to Afghanistan, and he decided to stay. Though his former battle buddy Dan Ferris, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who served alongside him in the 75th Ranger Regiment, said it wasn't even a question.
"Ryan was like, 'There's no way in heck that I'm leaving. I'm staying and I'm going with you guys.' He was just completely dedicated to getting out there and defending our country with all of us," Ferris told Task & Purpose.
McCarthy was among the first boots on the ground during the invasion of Afghanistan. After graduating from the Virginia Military Institute, McCarthy went on to serve for five years, deploying to Afghanistan from October 2001-February 2002, and earning three Army Achievement Medals, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, Ranger Tab, and Parachutist Badge, among others.
On Monday, the 45-year-old Army Under Secretary was nominated by President Donald Trump to be the top civilian in charge of the U.S. Army, replacing Mark Esper as Army Secretary, who was confirmed as Secretary of Defense in July.