Making the most of his potential
Ford ReStart Scholar served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan
For 28-year-old Ryan Dutton, the path to higher education has been anything but straight. After graduating from Siuslaw High School in Florence in 2000, Dutton attended one term of school at Lane Community College in Eugene before bouncing around a series of minimum-wage jobs.
A job at Camp Harlow, a Christian summer camp, in 2002 provided him with the impetus for change. “After summer camp I realized I didn’t want to go back to the same place I had come from,” Dutton remembers. “I’d grown spiritually in that time, made a lot of great friends, and realized that I had potential I wasn’t using.”
I want to go where I can be useful
Dutton wanted to go back to school, and decided to enlist in the U.S. Army to help pay for it. He chose to serve as a medic, looking for a career he could transfer to civilian life.
Dutton served in a parachute infantry regiment; when he jumped out of an airplane, he carried a weapon in his arms and medical supplies on his back. “The unit I was in was at the forefront—we went to the biggest, baddest areas,” he said. “I was an infantryman until someone got hurt, and then I was a medic.”
His four-year hitch turned into five-and-a-half years after he was “stop-lossed,” or ordered to extend his active duty service by 18 months.
“I ended up doing three tours, between Iraq and Afghanistan, and I worked with incredible men and women,” Dutton says. “They are real-life heroes, like the kind they make movies about. I saw things that no one wants to see, but God brought me through that time for something greater.”
After his discharge in February of 2008, Dutton moved back to Oregon and eventually enrolled in Central Oregon Community College. He will earn his associate’s degree after winter term. “That’s going to feel great,” he says. “It’s been a long time coming.” He then plans to pursue either a medical degree or a career as a physician assistant.
‘a huge blessing’
Dutton calls the Ford ReStart scholarship a “huge blessing,” and says he is using the time he doesn’t have to spend working to serve other people in the community. He helps tutor fellow classmates, is involved with a student club on campus, and volunteers once a week at a free medical clinic in Bend.
Although it was tough, Dutton credits his military experience with helping him succeed at going back to school. “I really learned discipline, time management and self-motivation,“ he says. “The military’s given me a lot of perspective on what I’m capable of, I guess. School is not super easy, but it’s easy compared with that.”
Although he’s not exactly sure what his future will look like, Dutton knows it will be a career in medicine. “I want to go where I can be useful,” he says. “I feel led to the missions field, not necessarily to other countries, but to underserved rural, low-income areas where the need is great.”