Ryan “Birdman” Parrott, Author, Public Speaker, Former Navy SEAL, Patent Holder, Action Sports Athlete, and Founder of two non- profits benefitting Veterans and First Responders is originally from Detroit, Michigan. Birdman enlisted in the Navy after watching the Twin Towers fall on 9/11 and served eight years as a U.S. Navy SEAL attached to SEAL Team SEVEN, completing three combat tours to Iraq before being assigned to Advanced Training Command as an Instructor.
In 2005, while serving in Iraq, Birdman was riding atop a Humvee manning the gun turret in enemy territory, when his vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED), causing a detonation and throwing him from the Humvee. Birdman regained composure with his face and hands burned and witnessed his fellow team members suffer devastating burn and blast injuries.
In 2012, he established Sons of the Flag to help burn survivors and their families find the help and medical attention they truly deserve.
He is also the founder of the Bird’s Eye View Project, addressing the extreme needs of Veterans and First Responders through extreme sports.
He authored Sons of the Flag: Real Accounts from the last 100 years of American Service.
Now a sponsored athlete in the extreme sports arena, he has founded The Human Performance Project taking a deeper dive into health and wellness giving our next generation a better understanding on taking proper care of their bodies through physical, mental, emotional and spiritual guidance from world renowned experts in their fields. In tandem this project aims to reboot Veteran and First Responders by helping them find their true health foundation from the physical and mental trauma created over a career.
John Shegerian: Listen to the Impact Podcast on all your favorite podcast platforms, including Apple iTunes, Google podcast, Amazon Music, iHeartRadio Audible Spotify Stitcher and of course at impactpodcast.com. This edition of the impact podcast is brought to you by ERI. ERI has a mission to protect people, the planet and your privacy and is the largest fully integrated IT and electronics asset disposition provider and cybersecurity focused Hardware destruction company in the United States and maybe even the world. For more information on how ERI can help your business properly dispose off outdated electronic Hardware devices, please visit eridirect.com.
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John: Welcome to another edition of the Impact Podcast. This is the first edition in 2023, and this is a most special edition because we’ve got with us today Ryan Birdman Parrott. Welcome to the Impact Podcast for our first edition of this new year.
Ryan Parrott: Thank you so much for having me, brother. I’m super excited about this.
John: Ryan, I said this to you off the air but before we even get going and our audience is going to learn a lot about you today, thank you for your service and everything you’ve done be what we’re going to be talking about today.
Ryan: No, it was an honor. It’s truly humble when I hear that because we never thought about anything other than I want to go join the military. Thank you for that.
John: Well, there’s a lot to unpack here today. You’re a fascinating guy with an amazing history, but I think even a bigger future ahead of you on what you’re endeavoring to accomplish. We’re going to get into that in a couple minutes, but first, let’s go backwards. Where did you grow up? How did you get interested in becoming a Navy SEAL which, of course, that’s why I said at the top of the show, thank you for your service. Where is the Genesis of Ryan Birdman Parrott?
Ryan: I grew up in Detroit, Michigan. Played ice hockey, it’s what you do out there in Michigan. You learn how to walk, you learn how to skate same time. [laughter] It’s interesting when we start to dissect guys who make it through the program, whether it’s SEAL training or any other special operations, most of them come from broken homes and that’s something interesting. Just that information, the way that you receive what’s happening in your upbringing creates that adversity and that overcoming adversity. I think that was a huge catalyst to helping me get through the program. But my parents divorced when I was five years old. We moved from house to house from parent’s house to parent’s house to grandparent’s house. I never really was able to develop communication skills because I wasn’t at a school long enough to make friends. That’s why I cherish my relationships more than anything that’s tangible today is my relationships with people. Because we’re on this Earth to help each other, we’re on this Earth to share with each other and minus God, my family, everything to me is my relationships. In middle to high school, I started developing relationships and was playing pretty competitive hockey. I was failing almost every subject in school. I have a report card, my dad captain, he sent it to me I was like, “Oh my gosh, I’m so glad I’m out of this.” [inaudible] an F, a D and non complete and all these, I use it for speeches. It’s hilarious. [laughter]. I was going nowhere. Oh well, the thing is I didn’t care. That was the worst part is it’s I couldn’t do the inform, I couldn’t do the work, I could take the test but I chose not to. I didn’t care about the outcome. I didn’t care about where I was going in life. That’s a real bad place to be when you’re going nowhere. I was working at Walgreens in the photo department and that’s why I always loved to make the joke when I go to just send a resume for fun to a friend. I’m like, “Would you hire me as Walgreens photo printer US Navy SEAL Sniper?” [laughter]. It was [inaudible], but it was a teacher who is a motivational psychology teacher who’s a Marine in Vietnam. He came into the classroom one day and instead of being hundred miles an hour and boisterous and all that, he just looked at the class, he held the American flag and he said, “Ladies and gentlemen, there’s only one thing better than the US Marine Corps and that’s United States Navy SEALs.” I turned my head and I’m like, “What did he just say?” Because all he ever talked about was the Marine Corps and I just couldn’t believe it. He made it sound so fascinating, he was a storyteller and it was just like, “Oh my gosh, this is my calling, it’s what I’m supposed to do.” [laughter] I stayed after class, I’m like, “Mr. Barnes[?], I’m going to be a Navy SEAL.” He violently laughs in my face. I’m like, “You can’t do that. You’re my teach, you can’t make fun of me.” He’s like, “Buddy, you’re not even passing my class, and it’s an elective. How are you going to pass the toughest military training the world has?” I’m like, “I don’t know.” That’s why it’s so important for people to keep their word today because if he would have just said, “Oh well, you know what? Good riddance to you, do what you do.” That would’ve been one thing in my life would have been ultimately not great. But he said, “I’m gonna get something for you.” The next day when I showed up to class there was a Reader’s Digest Magazine sitting in my desk, talks about the making of an American warrior. This guy named Jeff Wright who went from the Marine Corps into the Navy to see if he had what it takes to survive and that told me everything I needed to know. I was like, “Oh my gosh, there’s a glorified Marine. Marines are awesome, they’re the best and this guy got out honorably went into the Navy to see if he could survive SEAL training. I’m in. I’m sold.” Of course, this talk is cheap. It’s talk is talk and so I went back to being a complete loser or I was not doing anything, there was no grades. I was just failing everything, I didn’t care and 911 happened. I remember when I saw the second tower explode and they said it was a possible terrorist attack, I couldn’t make up in my mind how somebody could kill, absolutely murder that many people and let alone one person but just everybody. I was so angry inside and that’s not the reason that you join the service, not the reason you go to war, but I was so raged that I said, I certainly can’t change what just happened, but maybe I can be a part of the solution. I left class right then and there when that tower had just fallen. I went to the recruiter station. I said, “I don’t care what it takes, get me into the SEAL program. They said, “Whoa, slow your horses. You can’t just go into the SEALs. I said, “Did you see what happened on the TV? I’m in.” I was too young to join right then and there, I had to wait a few months and then I would enlist in the delayed entry program in the Navy with no hopes of being a SEAL. I was going to be Aviation Ordnance, I was going to put bombs in the bottom of the jets and I was going to go try out and boot camp to become a SEAL and that’s how it all started for me.
John: How old were you then?
Ryan: I was 18 going on 19.
John: You had some DNA in you though. Both your grandfathers if I’m not mistaken, were both US military veterans?
Ryan: That’s right. One army, one navy. Both World War II. They’re truly the greatest generation of folk. Those are the men who every time I’d go home for Christmas, they have their American flipping, and if it was tattered or messed up, “Ryan, you go on out there and you go get that flag for me. Go put another one up.” It’s like that was a point of contention, we got to get this done. Growing up with them is influence in saying these are strong sturdy men who have values towards our nation and the people within it. That was also another catalyst to helping me make that decision.
John: That’s awesome. So now you’re in, you’re listed, how did that go? Was it more than you’ve ever felt in terms of a challenge than your entire life prior to that?
Ryan: As far as boot camp for the Navy, there wasn’t a challenge for me per say. A lot of people get homesick, I didn’t because I knew that I was on a path. I didn’t want to get away from home, I wanted to go further my life and better my life. I thought the boot camp was really unique because I get to see if boot camp hasn’t really changed since World War II. It still has the same feel, still has the same smell. Some of what they would be called the barracks, but they call them ships in the Navy but they’re still barracks, old, the rundown and it’s a training command. So you go there. What I liked about the Navy’s boot camp, is that it taught you about the traditions the United States Navy, that was something that everybody had to learn. So, in fortifies you into a 1-unit group right out of the gate. Everybody, my grandfather went to the same teachings. I did. That’s what’s really cool. Folding my underwear every single day and ironing t-shirts and that, not my favorite, but it is what it is. Simplifying your life. When you get to boot camp, they strip you down, they have you take everything off and you put it in a box and then they ship that back home. So you have no possessions. For the next nine weeks, you will live out of you have your rack your bed and then you have two little drawers. And those are the contents of your life. What you realize is that you don’t need anything to truly thrive. It’s use what you have to your advantage and that was so nice. Cell phones weren’t a thing then so that was a beauty too. There’s no social media, there’s just purely this greatness of be present, be in the moment and learn the traditions. I felt like it went backwards though physically in boot camp training.
Ryan: In SEAL training, they drop you down. You have to do 50 pushups. In boot camp, they drop you down, you do 10. So I would find myself after hours when everybody go to sleep, working out in the back of the barracks because I felt like it was going backwards. I remember it was the second week of boot camp. There was an instructor that came around and said, “Who wants to sign up for special activities or tryout for special activities?” I thought I’m in. That’s me, I want to do that. I wasn’t sure if it hadn’t meant SEALs, but he goes, “Oh, really, you think you’re going to be a SEAL?” I was like, “I at least made the right call. So I went and try it out and you do an academic test, you do a physical fitness test, you do an overall review board and then I think there’s a site test. I didn’t get any information after that and all they said to me after I’d taken that battery of tests was you can show up now and train with us every morning. You have to get up two hours earlier than everybody in boot camp and that’s it. No guarantees. No nothing, just show up if you want and you can train. That’s it.” So I would do that. Getting closer to the end of boot camp, I had no word. Nobody had told me anything, and I’m starting to freak out if I don’t get anybody to talk to me and I don’t even know who to talk to, I’m going into the fleet and that’s not what I signed up for. Nothing against the fleet, but that just wasn’t my path at all. That was the second last week of boot camp, the Senior Chief is the first Navy SEAL I’ve ever met. Senior Chief, it’s Henry. He looked like a SEAL and he talked like one, very deep voice scary terrifying. He came into our bootcamp division and, “Parrott!” So I run over to him. I knew that voice and I stood at attention. He’s like, “Still want to be a frogman?” I was like, “More than ever Senior Chief.” He goes, “Well, we were looking at all your tests and you did good on all of them but we’re just not sure that you’re the quality of candidate we’re looking for.” In my mind, I’m thinking to myself as he says that, “Well, of course, I’m not. Why would I? I was a complete screw-up failing every subject in school, working a deadbeat job, going nowhere in life. Why would I be your candidate?” So that’s running through my brain as he’s talking. Then he looks over to the rest of the guys in boot camp, and they’re very lethargic. At the end of it, nobody’s really doing anything. He looks back at me and smiles and he goes, “Just kidding. Welcome to BUD/S.” And I was like, “Oh my gosh! [laughter] Thank you Jesus. Thank you so much.” It was so mind-bending to me to know that I was going to be in SEAL training at just being 20 years old. That I had gone from a year and a half earlier failing every subject in school, having no path, going nowhere in life to now I just got accepted to Tufts military training the Navy has provide. Oh my gosh, this is an amazing step, so that was pretty emotional.
John: Holy Toledo. For non-veterans like me, frame it up a little bit, out of 100% of people who go into Navy SEAL training, what percentage don’t even make it?
Ryan: Sure. You have everybody around the country that wants to go be a SEAL competing, and they have to score a certain percentage in a test before they even get into boot camp and so what we’ll have to guarantee their contract, and so they’re competing against everybody. When I went through, they didn’t have that. It was you try out. It’s a battery of things. You have to pass the academics in the physicality, and they also have to like you because they’re going to be working with you. So it’s a personality thing and a good-old-boy club. So you have to really fit the mold there. Honestly for me was the big thing. They asked me a couple questions about honesty and integrity and I was like, “I’m just here. You give me a mission and you let me go wild on it, I’m going to give you everything I got because that’s all I got.” “Okay, we can deal with this guy.” Because this is one thing that I know in life to be true is I will take anybody and put them on my team who has an incredible attitude and is just a mediocre athlete or a mediocre worker because I can help you, and I can train you to become excellent at your profession or your skill set. What I can’t do is change your attitude. If you got a good attitude, I’m going to work with you as opposed to somebody who is a hotshot who has a terrible attitude. So that’s what they really look for. When we got the buzz, there was about 200, it was 186 guys that you’re talking about all that had passed that curriculum at the highest level. They’re all athletes, they’re all hundred miles an hour, they’re hungry. You got out of the Navy, top 1% of the world that are there and about 85% of them quit and go away.
John: Eighty-five fall out of! Eighty five, that is incredible. So it’s not only the best versus the best. But then only about 15% graduate. Incredible, never even heard that step before. How long does it take to make it through Navy, SEAL training? What level for you was this an all-out moment? Was this by far the toughest thing you ever did? What got you through?
Ryan: Toughest? At that point, because you’re a kid, I was still, I was 20 years old so by far the toughest thing I’ve ever done. But for me, it was different. It was so unique. I had so much fun in SEAL training because from the information that I could get publicly, I was now living it. I was at that training command that they had started with. I was running on the grinder where they were in those pictures. I’m there, I’m present and I was accepted, so I’m grateful but I’m also living this. SEAL training is very unique because you have your standards, you have to do your 4-mile timed run every couple days in soft sandy boots. You have your two nautical mile ocean swims, you have your own courses, you have some log PT and some boat IBS or passage. So you have some variable or some standards. But then you have all these other activities that are unique and different that you have to pass as well. As you’re achieving something every day, you’re trying new things every single day, nothing’s easy. But you’re around people that want to be there too. The ones that don’t want to be there show themselves quickly and they’ll leave the exit quickly.
Within the first five weeks of SEAL training, everybody who needs to go away is gone. Then from there, it’s a 6-month program just for Seal training or buds. We call it basic underwater demolition SEAL training. After that 5 weeks, we know really the package that we’re going to be working with and then you become a brotherhood, you become your own fortified unit. That’s really cool. But for me, it was just the daily routine. You’re paying me to live in San Diego and this weather on the ocean. Oh my Gosh, minus getting eaten by a shark.
John: [laughter] For those of you just joined us either via video or on the podcast, we’ve got Ryan Birdman Parrott with us today. He’s a US Navy SEAL veteran, but we’re going to be talking about is great new venture americanextreme.com to learn more about Ryan and what he’s going to be talking about, what he’s going to be doing in February. So go look that up right now. Ryan, you get through being a navy, you get through BUD training here, 6 months in. Let’s go back a little bit. What does mom and dad saying about all this? Are your grandfather still alive? Did they get to live to see you do this?
Ryan: That’s a great question. I appreciate you asking that one because that was a very meaningful thing for me. When I told my parents originally I want to be a Navy SEAL, my mom, she’s super supportive. She’s like, “You just go do it honey. That sounds great.” Has no idea what it is [laughter]. My dad ended up going to the original America Online, the dial-up, went online and he said, “Do you have any idea what attrition rate there is?” I said, “Well, I don’t even know what that word means.” I [laughter] was like, “Is that good? Is that bad? What is this?” He was nervous. He’s one of those guys who don’t walk under a ladder so he’s like, “I don’t want to get too excited because I know that the odds are truly against you.” He was supportive but he was nervous and I would be the same way if my children went there.
Ryan: You want them to succeed so well but you know the odds are completely against them. But I had the full support. We didn’t have cell phone, so I had to call my parents [inaudible] or use the pay phone every week and still trying just to let them know, “I’m still here, I’m still going, this is great.” Making the phone call to them after hell week was everything for me, it was the most powerful phone call I’ve ever made in my life.
John: That’s brilliant.
Ryan: It was just telling my parents how week is the toughest training we have in SEAL training. We jack quickly, we lost 60 guys the first night. It was just so fast and so hard and so miserable. I told my parents that I was going to give it everything I had, was the first time in really the only time that I had truly given every bit of everything I had to see if you truly do that, does it work? And the answer is yes. If you give everything that God has given you then you will succeed. I went through 5.5 days of being cold, wet, tired and miserable with no sleep and it was brutal. At the end of it, there was just a handful of us standing there to graduate hell week. The only thing I could think about was getting to that phone to make those calls. When I made the calls, it was the most emotional thing in the world. Because I said,
thank you for always sticking by me, because they could have just said the hell with it. You’re failing every subject in school for years and years. But now I said, “You stuck with me through all these times, and as a result of that, I just made it through hell week and I’m going to be a nice States Navy SEAL who knows everything.”
John: Were your two grandfathers also alive at this point as well?
Ryan: Oh yes. And so the…
John: Tell me about those calls.
Ryan: I didn’t get to make those calls because I had to get back to training.
John: Oh, got it.
Ryan: But just fast [inaudible] for a second is later on I would become a SEAL sniper and I ended up going through sniper school. All of my teammates that were all snipers and I when we were graduating, we decided to drive up to Michigan and my family came out and both of my granddads got to see my entire SEAL sniper buddies and we took a picture, and they both had their seal Trident hats on. So it’s really cool.
John: That’s really cool. That is awesome. So now you get out, the 6 months is over. Talk about a little bit about your experience in deployments. I know you had I believe 3 deployments, talk a little bit about that. How did the real service that you did with the Navy SEALs go, and how did you even become part of SEAL Team 7? Because that’s next level Navy SEAL stuff. That’s not just Navy SEAL, which is the most elite group of people in the world in terms of military but you became part of Seal Team 7. Explain that a little bit.
Ryan: It’s interesting. I always like to make the joke because I have friends over at what they call SEAL Team 6 or Development Group. The higher the number of the team, the better the team and I was at Team 7. That’s not actually that…
John: Is that the highest-level?
Ryan: no. [inaudible]. It’s just a joke for them. Typically, what will happen is you get to choose your coast, you want to go west or east coast when you graduate. After a buzz, you get to go to another finishing school which is called SQT, SEAL qualification training. So another six months of training, and then I think you go to Kodiak, Alaska for cold weather survival training, and then you go to [inaudible] and jump school, and then you come back and then you show up to your command. Usually you get to go to the team that’s coming back from deployment and you get to choose your coast. But they do an NFL draft. So they’ll take your information and your picture and they put it at the command, and they follow all the information for how you did during all the BUD/S in SQT. Then all the head shed gets together to say, “I want this guy, I want this guy. This guy’s a turd,” whatever it is. [inaudible] I was hand selected by SEAL Team 7 Alpha Platoon because of what I apparently offered them based off of my background It’s nice because you’re not just there like, “We’re just going to take you,” they hand-selected me. So I was grateful. The unique thing about SEAL Team 7, and there is not a team that best. There’s a lot of talk about specific teams doing specific missions, but it really is about the tribe of the team. It’s about the culture. What had happened was SEAL Team 7 had just been created. They had only done one deployment. What they did is they pulled senior guys from SEAL Team 1, 3 and 5 to build this team up. When they pulled all these unique dudes out, now you’re getting this incredible leadership, you’re getting all these incredible operators together in one roof to develop the command. That’s why it was so unique because they were hungry, they were motivated. They want to work hard. It was an open playing field to develop, and so as the newest SEAL Team along with Team 10, and I was just fortunate enough during that time frame to get into SEAL Team 7, ran out of the gate, what a career.
John: What year was that?
Ryan: I got to SEAL Team 7 in the early part of 2004.
John: Got it.
Ryan: Then we started our ULT or workup. We form up as a platoon. When I got into the SEAL Team, the guys had just gotten back from their first deployment as SEAL Team 7 so I just miss being a plank[?] owner right there.
John: [laughter] You had three deployments, talk about your deployments and some of the things that started to then change your life a little bit. Well, on some of these deployments, I know you had a big incident in that when you’re in the Humvee. So why do you go through that a little bit?
Ryan: Sure. Showing up to the command is very scary because you’re brand new again. You just went through all that training and now you’re a new guy here and you know nothing. Now, you’re going to be an operator and you got to learn quick and they watch your moves. They watch everything about you. We knew that we we’re going overseas and the goal for the Platoons is we compete against every other platoon at the SEAL team for the hottest spot overseas. How do we do that? By how well we train under the instruction the instructors relay the information and rate each platoon. At the end of all of it, they compile the scores in the information then they say, well, this platoon has really just been well-rounded. These guys deserve to get their pick and we’re going to shoot for the hottest spot. We want to go to the place where the worst terrorist, the bad, the biggest action is, the craziest time. That’s who we want to go to because we want to fight. I was very fortunate, went over Alpha Platoon. Alpha Platoon got number 1 so we got the hottest spot. We went to Hominy[?] in 2005 with the option to cross between Hominy[?] and Ramadi. Ramadi at that time was becoming the safe haven. The betting round for the old Fallujah. It was bad. It was only, I think they said it was maybe 15 or 20% occupied by native forces. So it was really cowboys and Indians go in there. See what’s going on and try to disrupt the network, the mechanism, whatever it is. I remember the first time we drove through Hamadi[?], things exploding everywhere and you’re like whoa, this is a real reality check. As a new guy, you don’t get to do a whole lot in the beginning. So you don’t get to lead the charge and lead the guys into shooting, going through doors and that, you don’t get to do any of that stuff. You’re really in the back of the train and observing, and getting ready in case you need to be actionable. But you’re really more in an observation because you’re brand new We were about three months in their deployment, we had knocked out quite a bit of operations at that point, a lot of what they call direct action mission. So going after specific target and either taking them back with us or killing them. At the back of the three-month marker, we were coming back from a mission and we were driving down the road route Michigan, the most dangerous road in Iraq. I’m from Michigan so wouldn’t that be unique? We hit a roadside bomb. It exploded so fast, it was the most violent and it wasn’t even terrifying at that moment because it was so fast. My brain couldn’t comprehend what just happened. But all I knew is that I was ejected from the turret into the air, and that’s how I got my nickname later on was Birdman is because I went flying which was great as a good upgrade. I was like, “I’m good with that.”
John: The perfect last name for a let’s just be honest
Ryan: Fairly last name. But what came from that was I was hurt pretty bad and I saw teammates bleeding out pretty bad. I had to jump on them and help and our teamwork so cohesively to help get everybody back together. It was so unique. We worked so well together, we cared about each other so much, everybody lived. We work on each other and got everybody back to the hospital and everybody lives. A horrific time but ultimately a great outcome.
John: Ryan, let’s go back. When you were deployed prior to this horrific accident, how much is the… Obviously, non-veterans like me and so many others that get to enjoy the beauty and the freedom that we get to enjoy because of heroes like you and all of your colleagues in the military, how much is the reality of being in war time in the situations that you were put in post SEAL Team 7 training versus the glorified versions we see on film, and versus what you were expecting as a SEAL Team 7 trainee? On a 3-part basis, you’re in there, you’re in the reality of it now, you remember the training part, and of course, we all know the glorified film versions, how different, how nightmarish was the reality versus what your training prepared you for? Was it much more than you expected or was it pretty much what you trained up for what to expect? And was it what you expected when you got there prior to the Humvee accident?
Ryan: Great question. We train a lot. We train very, very hard. And the reason for that is so that when we get to a place where we are measured up against, we at least can counter that issue. But ultimately, you can only be so prepared for an ambush and that’s what happens in war. Most of the time, it’s tactics ambush. When you get into country, the first thing you don’t realize is you’re breathing in this, saying that’s all just floats in the air is like powder and so you’re breathing the scent costly. You’re destroying your lungs, and it’s just nasty, and it’s a thousand degrees outside and it smells horrible, because their irrigation system is terrible. Sewages runs amok through the cities, and there’s nobody doing any command and control of cleanup because it’s war so it’s been demolished. You see the aftermath of what’s already been done. My reality check right out of the game was seeing these children playing in Rubble in big old piles of trash and searching through the trash to find a soccer ball or something. And you look at that as a young child, that’s what their upbringing is and that’s as good as it’s going to get for them. It’s so sad. Then you look at some of the other people that just couldn’t get out of country and so they’re stuck with this scenario, and there’s a war happening in real time around them, so that’s their lifestyle. There’s that side of the house. The other side of the house is, yes, there are bad people, they’re evil, and they care less about your life. They want to kill you, they want to end you, and they could care less about their own to the tune of they’ll kill themselves and their family too. That was so shocking for me. I was 21 years old. We made the joke I was a Navy SEAL before I could legally drink a beer, true. You’re seeing this at a young age when I don’t even consider a 21-year old an adult. I think they’re still…
John: A kid. You were a kid!
Ryan: Yep. You look at this stuff though, and that really helped humble me to a point of really understanding the greater understanding of life in like when I come back and there’s somebody arguing over silly stuff, it’s pointless, there’s no reason for that. Because the reality is we live in this country which is an amazing country. And we have the opportunities to do what we do and go anywhere and buy anything and do all this stuff without that fear, where this is their everyday constant and they don’t even understand what this has to offer here. So it slows you down and it humbles you. The chaos, it [inaudible]. Sometimes you’ll be doing work for weeks on end when you’re just operating, operating, operating and you’re getting shot at half the time or most of the time and you’re in text which are gunfights and then you have explosions, IEDs were so prevalent in Iraq in the beginning of the war which is a coward way of fighting but that’s what they do. There’s all these elements where when you’re in a gunfight, you’re ambushed and when you’re with an IED, you’re completely ambushed but you’re not actually fighting anything. So your element, your mind is always on red alert. So that’s trying to come down off of that. That’s why it’s so difficult to get back from overseas and then move back into a family setting, move back into a peaceful setting because you just lived super vigilant 100 miles an hour and now you’re supposed to flip the switch and turn it off. We get good at compartmentalizing things but compartmentalizing is only to compartmentalize to finish the mission, it should not be to compartmentalize forever so that the stuff in your bag ends up exploding on you and you fall a victim to it and then you can’t get out of your own way. It was interesting after getting blown up. I didn’t really do many missions as a gunfighter per se, I was more on the observation role as a new guy but I got to go into some houses which was cool. Just grateful to be part of the team in there. After the explosion, I was sent home with the rest of the crew to heal up, and then when I got redeployed after I healed about back to… I went up to the Philippine Islands for that duration of the deployment which was nice. It was a nice dial down. Then from there, I said to myself that I wanted to be better of an operator, I wanted to be a more efficient operator, and for me were gunfighters. Could I in fact be a better gunfighter? Well, yes, maybe I should try for sniper school. I put my hand in the hat to say I want to be a sniper because it’s the hardest school we have. It’s stressful and it’s technical. I was like that’s what I want to do, I want to challenge myself. I was very blessed to make it through sniper school, and become a sniper in a team lead sniper to run our snipers.
John: Wow. Were you deployed post that or what happened in your in your military career post sniper school?
Ryan: I were deployed two more times to Iraq after getting blown up and both as a sniper. One, I was a team leader and so I got to carry the sniper capability, but I was more of a leading the guys type scenario for combat operations and being in the psalter. I also deployed to Lebanon to a small deployment to teach our counterpart over there, which was really, really unique, really cool to see. Lebanon’s a beautiful place if you haven’t been to diamond in the rough. But, yes, a lot of operations, nothing more than anybody else. And definitely, I was not on anything that’s so significant that people say, “Oh, you should write a book about it.” I did my time, I offered value to the team. I loved the brotherhood, it was just everything. You eat, sleep and breathe the brotherhood. I don’t think it’s the best place for a wife and kids. That’s why I chose to stay single for my career because I felt I could just dedicate myself and not have anything back side so that I was having any stressors. But, I did eight years in the service and I thought every moment of it was wonderful.
John: What year was did you leave the service?
Ryan: I went into the service in 2002. I got out in 2010.
John: Let’s go back. You’re recovering from the Humvee accident, the Humvee explosion not an accident. How long did it take you to heal up? I understand a lot of the injuries, besides the mental and emotional injuries, were burns. Can you share a little bit about recovering from the Humvee explosion and some of your injuries and some of your colleagues’ injuries that got you starting thinking about burn trauma and things of that such?
Ryan: Certainly. I wasn’t fully healed up when I redeployed and that’s just how it goes. There’s nothing worse than being away from your team. I don’t care how bad I am. It’s just as long as I’m there, I’m good.
John: They’re your family.
Ryan: So I found a loophole because I wanted to get back overseas and they were like, “You’re not going anywhere.” “How do I get back overseas?” “You’re not going anywhere.” I’m like, “Okay.” Then I found out that there was a UAV, is like a drone school and it was a short school like two weeks and they needed the capability overseas. I said, well, can I go to drone school [chuckles] then? Because they need capability and apparently that capability supersedes my health in the Platoon and so is a loophole to go 2 weeks to the school, go overseas. I threw the plane up, I crashed it right away. It was the last time I flew a plane and I was back overseas with my dad as it was great.
John: [laughter] Wow.
Ryan: To your question though, the healing portion of it. It took my burns 6-7 months to fully heal up to where it wasn’t really noticeable anymore. When I get suntan’s now you can see the burns. I was very lucky where they were superficial burns for a second degree. A lot of the guys in the Hummer were worse off at 30 degree which is full thickness to the skin, needed a lot more attention. We had shrapnel through the cockpit that hit us all. My recovery time really 6-7 months fully, but in the hospital short term and then I was out and recovering at home. The physical side, it is what it is. The mental side, the emotional side, that’s the real kicker because it didn’t hit me right then and there, and it certainly didn’t hit me during my career until the very end and then aftermath, that’s when it really started to get a hold of me.
John: Ryan, your history is again more than inspirational. And again, I hear everything that you’ve done and during your military service and again, thank you for your service. There’s so few heroes in this great country. All of you deserve to be thanked every day by everyone that you come in touch with. You’ve done a lot since you’ve gotten out of the military and that’s the real today what I want to share with our audience besides your great history. I want you to get into a little bit talking about why and how you establish Sons of the Flag, Bird’s Eye View Project, Human Performance Project and American Extreme. I know it’s a lot, but it’s a new year and these are very important topics that I really wish you could share with our audience. Let’s start little bit chronologically. Let’s go back to around 2012 and Sons of the Flag and how and why you started Sons of the Flag?
Ryan: Sons of the Flag, when you get out of the service and there’s some that tell a lot of hats today and it’s just in general, people who have been doing something for career. If tomorrow you decided to pack up your entire office, say I’m done or for some reason I’ve just had my span and I’ve got to go home. I’m out. You’re going to have some troubles, no matter what. Unless you absolutely hate what you’re doing and you just know you have to get out right, leaving something is tough. For me, when I got out, I moved to Dallas Texas. I was supposed to take well paying super high-level job and everything was set up and it didn’t happen. I found myself in this precarious position where I had no funding coming in, I didn’t know anybody out here in Dallas, and I just given up a career that was with some of the greatest people in the world. I was rocked. Better thing for me to do is because I didn’t want to hurt anybody but myself is just drink. So I’ll just turn to the bottle and start drinking. I realized quickly though that it didn’t get me anywhere. It’s just one of those things where…
John: Ryan, let’s pause there. How common is that? How common is the feeling of being lost with military veterans that come home? They didn’t have anything and they feel lost, and they turn to something that’s going to have a negative consequence drinking, drugging, or even other things. How common do you feel that that is?
Ryan: That’s extraordinary common common to see. It’s just the same thing as a pro athlete when they can’t play anymore. I don’t want to be a commentator, I want to be on field with the guys or whatever it is and it’s tough. It’s tough because it’s not even about the mission, it’s about the men and when you don’t have that camaraderie every single day where you can completely be transparent and you can be yourself. The thing was unique about me is I was a skateboarder. A lot of these guys were triathletes in their body liked to work out hard and gunfighters and all this stuff, and I’m the skateboarder who wear skate shoes and they accepted me for who I was as long as I did my job. That’s how it should be. You be you, I’m going to be me, perform and perform to your highest level and I’ll know if you’re not. But if you’re doing that, do your thing. I even got a bunch of my guys to go skateboarding with me, that was funny. I wish I had a camera back then because just seeing them eat crap on the ground, I was dying, he’s hardcore up, tears are falling all over the place. Transition for me was difficult as it is for many people, and there’s ways that we could get around it which we could talk about in a future podcast. For me, Sons of the Flag was an opportunity popped up out of nowhere and because you got to seek these things. I was yearning for something, I wanted to do something for the greater good, I wanted to do something for our community, and I just didn’t know how and I wanted to be a part of something. I met an army ranger who was severely disfigured from an IED. Looking at his burns and the injury and seeing like that could have been me, oh my gosh, and I said, “What are they doing for you guys today?” He said, “Look at me.” I was like, “I’m looking,” and he said, “This is as good as it gets buddy. I’ve been to three dozen surgeries. This is as good as it gets for me.” I was like, “That’s bull crap.” I went home and I studied all night long and I seriously could not find anything open source to give him because my idea was I’m going to find something. We’re going to go ask a few people for some dollars, we’re going to raise some capital, we’re going to go through this treatment, we’re going to get him on his way.” It wasn’t there. I call him the next day and I said, “Dude, I struck out. If I were to start something on your behalf, would you join me?” He goes, “Brother, I’m in.” That was the birth of the Sons of the Flag. Just as mom and pop shop charity just to find this one individual answers, his name was Captain Sam Brown and to get him on his way. What I did not realize is that we were standing on this tip of the iceberg that hadn’t been touched since Vietnam. We released the information out about who we were, raised a couple dollars the first year really mom and pop shop and then I got reached out to buy a firefighter from DC who said, “I love what you’re doing. I have three boys in the military and I’m a career firefighter in DC. I would love if you would expand your horizons to the fire community, and I’d like to be your team leader in DC.” Well, I was like, “Wow.” That was absolutely a fit and my grandfather after World War II was a firefighter for 30 years in Detroit. So I’m like, “Of course, we’re going to fire, but we just weren’t ready but we have to act on this and now we have a team leader running a chapter in DC,” and I don’t even know what we’re doing as an organization and then it spread like wildfire through the community of fire. We were asked to go do the keynote speech at all the big Fire Conference has published another big manuals and then it started to spread. The idea was let’s create a team across a task force around the country where that team leader can go gain us access to the burn unit so we can establish a relationship, find out their capitals needs list and then go and start an event there, raise capital, keep the money local, help them with their needs, get them on their way. And so that started to grow to where we’re in 38 states now. We’re ten years old, and we’ve got fourteen partnered burn units. The idea for us was to break it into 2 programs that were meaningful. One, how do we help the patient? How do we help them recover directly with real surgery from reconstructive surgeons? Now when anybody goes to Sons of the flag if you’re a burn patient, come to us, you’re our family, you got a voice with us and we’re going to help direct you to the best surgeons in the country so that you can get the surgery that you need to get you on your way. The other side to it is, and this doesn’t go for veteran first responder only, it goes for everybody in the United States of America, pediatric to adult, civilian, military, first responder, we covered on everybody, a burn is a burn. The other side to it as most of our reconstructive burn surgeons are older. So what’s going to happen? There’s going to be a mass exodus. When they start retiring at that cyclic rate, we’re in trouble because there’s only about 300 accredited burn surgeons nationwide. So our idea was okay we got to put together a scholarship program, and so we now fund doctors in the residency to become burn reconstructive fellows where we scholarship them for a year, they go through the burn training and then they become a burn surgeon. Right now, we fund 50% of all new burn surgeons in the nation. Within the next five years, we’re going to own that completely the United States so that way people know go to Sons of the Flag if you want to become a burn surgeon.
John: Ryan, I know we’re here today. We’re going to be talking about what you’re going to be doing in February. For our listeners and viewers to find Ryan and what he’s doing in February, this amazing journey, you could go to americanextreme.com. But before we get talking about what you’re doing there, give a shout out for the URL for Sons of the flag please so people can find you there that need help or want to support or just get involved and support that great organization that you and others have created and run today.
Ryan: Absolutely. If you’re a burn survivor, if you’ve got a family member that’s been burned, if you are somebody who wants to support an event or just be a part of something, go check out sonsoftheflag.org, simple as that.
John: sonsoftheflag.org. I love it. Then you also went on to found the Bird’s Eye View Project. Can you explain a little bit about what that is?
Ryan: Absolutely. In high-level, I always looked at one charity doesn’t change the world and so we all need to work together and a lot of people don’t want to do that. Our idea was how can we work with not just burns, but how can we work with different veteran and first responder causes so that if you took that patient and drop them in the epicenter, now they’re getting attacked from multiple different causes to truly and holistically help them out? I have an amputation, I have a burn, I have this, I have a place to go for each one of them and they’ve been vetted. That’s what Bird’s Eye View was is to vet these organizations and then partner with them so that we could go out and do 1 or big 2 big fundraisers a year, raise the capital, spread the awareness about these causes and then deploy the money which was a secondary thing, but deploy money to these causes to continue to help patients. The idea from Bird’s Eye View Project came from me trying to take what I love and I’m passionate about with something that makes me whole, and parley them into something that I could do. And so that’s extreme sports for extreme needs. If I go do crazy things, which we’re going to talk about in a second, can we get people to follow? If people were truly engaged because they’re like, “Oh, Birdman’s going to just about kill himself here, I’m going to watch that.” “Oh and by the way, he just asked for a simple $5 donation to support these causes right here. I can do that.” Now that money gets deployed, we’re moving things forward and so that’s what Bird’s Eye View became as a consortium.
John: If that’s not enough, you went on to write a book called Sons of the Flag: Real Accounts from the last 100 years of American Service. Share a little bit about that.
Ryan: I’m always Smitten by… There’s one thing that I feel is missing in a lot of these books and that’s why. A lot of people talk about what and what’s very interesting, but why don’t we last for so long? It’s the why that drives you to do it forever. I wanted to go answer that question but when I went to go write it I’m like, “My God, am I a hypocrite?” Because I’m answering for just myself. But if I answer this for every single veteran that’s ever served the United States in the world forever and I’m saying this is the why, I could be completely wrong. I went and recruited a veteran from every war, from World War II to present day and I sent this back in chronological order from present day all the way to World War II and I asked them their why. I narrate the book, and each one of them have their chapter where they get to discuss their why of service. I’m not going to give anything away, but it’s very unique how it all seems to follow suit all the way through.
John: I assume that’s on Amazon and all other great platforms that you can buy books?
John: Sons of the Flag: Real Accounts from the last 100 years of American Service. Unbelievable. For most people, [chuckles] you still look so young. To have all that, that’s a career too what you’ve already done, Ryan. Now we’re going to move on to originally why I asked you to come on the show Impact Podcast, to talk about the Human Performance Project and what you’re doing with American Extreme. What was the impetus to create the Human Performance Project and the 7-day challenge event that is just incredibly exciting but incredibly challenging as well obviously?
Ryan: It’s amazing that we’re having this talk right now because I started this specifically for one person for one reason as I usually do, because I see a problem in an 8[?] and I want to fix it. This is crazy. I got a call in 2019 that my sniper partner killed himself, and it was a shot through the heart that it’s one of those things that you can’t recover from. David was not just our platoon mate, he wasn’t just my sniper partner, he was our platoons true north, he was the guy that we could go to who always had a smile on his face who always had the right answer. He was always the good dude. I lost my swagger when he took his life. I know this podcast can be heard in a few days after, but today we’re filming is January 2nd, today four years ago, he took his life.
John: Wow. This is a blessing then that this worked out. You and I didn’t plan it this way, you and I just have been in contact the last couple of weeks. So it’s truly an honor and his memory to be taping this today, and be able to get the word out about his great life and your a great life and all of your colleagues and what you guys do for all of us in this country for freedom. Talk a little bit about those suicide because it doesn’t get enough attention in this country. It’s still in so many ways a taboo subject. Suicide among veterans, it’s so unpredictable, talk a little bit about this.
Ryan: I’ve seen two sides of this because we’ve constantly tried to think about how do you get to that place? I haven’t had that feeling but I still have a massive heart for it, and I think there’s two sides of it. One is a getting to a place in life where you feel you offer zero value to the world where they’re hopeless, and then the other side to it is truly the physiological brain, the components of what we do from the blast wounds and all that stuff for concussions that send you down a different path where you might not be thinking correctly because your brain is at its ultimate and and it’s letting you know. So there’s many different things that are a catalyst and the problem is we don’t have a direct answer on here’s the reason. But I do know this, they did a study. It was in 2001 where they tried to bring some some knowledge to the numbers. And what they said was that the two wars since 911, we’ve lost roughly 7,500 sorry active duty military to killed in combat and killed in training, 7,500. Since 911, same time frame, over 30,000 committed suicide. You look at these numbers and it’s staggering and there’s not enough being done about it and I’m so tired of it. I’ve lost too many teammates to suicide, and I’m so tired of hearing these things and not doing anything. I don’t want to be the guy sitting there anymore saying that sucks and feeling bad when I could be doing something to move these things forward. And again I go back to I’m no saint and I’m not some healer or a scientist so I can fix anything, I just know that when I directionally challenge my efforts, I can get stuff done. And if I can put a team together and feel the same way, we’re going to go crush the mission. That’s exactly what we’ve done here is I have started a for-profit company called American Extreme so that I don’t have to put the burden on all the overhead for the things that we have to do in the future for our charities. But, we really rely on extreme sports, we do high-level high octane things, we make documentaries, we host crazy events that people can participate in, and then we study and look at human physiology from a human performance level. My idea for this is right after David, I got the call about David Metcalf who was a legend. David O Metcalf. I asked myself the question, why is this happening? My thesis would become it’s more than just the brain, it’s physiological as a whole. If you ask somebody to go do a bicep curl and go do 10 of them, sure, they’re going to get 10 bicep curls in and then they’re going to be a little bit tired. Asking go do 50, they’re going to be smoked, asking go do 1,000, their body will not work anymore. That’s exactly what we’re asking these soldiers, these first responders to do, is we are taxing them because they are willing to do it day in and day out because they are worried about the reputation or they just want to perform to the highest level and they will take themselves past fatigue into complete exhaustion because it’s about mission. Well, after 20 years of doing that without rebooting their body ever, you wonder why they’re getting out such catastrophic issues. I believe there is a function of the military that is purely brain-related from concussions and blast wounds and TB eyes, traumatic brain injuries that are what is causing a number of these suicides but not all. The others science of the house and I look at this purely from looking at the veteran, the first responder community, firefighters are not getting traumatic brain injuries like military would yet they are taking their life at a cyclic rate. But, they’re doing the same type of environment job. They’re still being asked a task. Every single third day, they have to go crush themselves, go train to run, go run on these calls, go see horrific things, and so it all is a combination of physical mental, emotional, and spiritual. If we’re not really focusing on those pillars of their house and making sure that those pillars are completely even so that it can put the house on top of it or that nice top on it, they’re always going to have that problem. My vision was, if we started to study physiology and then take it all the way back to the brass tacks base level again to introduce this information back into a guy’s mind. I don’t care that you can run 100 miles or you can do that. What if I were to start day 1 and say today, I want you to go and achieve running one mile at a nice slow pace and then we’re going to think about your feeling after that, and then we’re going to think about your hydration after that and then we’re going to talk about your sleep tonight. Then over time, we’re going to start building in just the basics so that you are now building your foundation again, and then you can put whatever home you want on top of it once you’ve gotten a homeostasis. So then the idea behind that would say, I want to do a physiological project where I can bring in scientists and researchers and then performance athletes, veterans, active duty, special operations and the subject matter experts to look at physiology and put together a study so then we can then develop a manual that a fourteen-year old child can pick up. Because it’s not just about the broken veteran in the first fire, it’s about the kid who’s told that McDonald’s is an easy access every single day and candy is a better option, or candy is being fed at school and we don’t even know his parents. What if we gave the kids, the option to understand how to live with true north and mine true homeostasis? I’m getting into sports and fourteen, everybody wants play football and soccer and all this stuff. How do I do it right? What am I putting into my body? How can I do it where I’m 14, and I can’t afford anything? Can I do it cost-effective? Can I do it with just myself? Building a manual that’s built for a 14-year old child is also built for a military person who’s struggling, who does not want to Google to do the research. When we put together this whole idea in my head, I reached out to a buddy of mine is a doctor at Harvard and I said, what do you think about this [inaudible] absolutely on point?” I said, “Well, I’m on point [inaudible].” “We got to do something about it.” I was like, “Got it.” I had come up with an idea eight years ago to base jump all seven continents and seven days just for fun. It was going to be a couple of my teammates and I like, ‘Let’s go raise some capital. I’m just going to have fun,” and it was in one year.
John: Ryan, roll. Let’s pause there. For our listeners and viewers who don’t know what BASE jumping is, explain what BASE jumping is to start with?
Ryan: BASE jumping is an acronym for building, antennas, spans, bridge, Earth. So jumping off of an inanimate object with one parachute system, you don’t have time for a secondary, risking it all. Seriously insane. The most primal sport you can do. It’s legendary.
John: That’s a BASE jump. your vision eight years ago was to do 7 BASE jumps in 7 days?
Ryan: No, we’re going to do 7 BASE jumps. We’re going to do one BASE jump on each continent in one year.
John: That was your original. Got it. Pretty wild.
Ryan: Never been done and I was like it was for us. It was not a public thing, it was just for us.
John: And did you guys do it?
Ryan: We did not because we you know at that point in time, Sons of the Flag was taking priority, I just shafted. When I came up with this idea for this Human Performance Project, I was like, “What could really turn people’s heads because who cares about a [inaudible] or an event, it’s about what can we gain off of it? But if we’re not going to tell the world what we’re doing, how are we going to get them to purchase the manual to live with true north and mind?” I brought that 7 concept back out of the shelf and I said, you know what, because it’s a physiological testing, the only way to really get there to get back from it is to break ourselves. What if we were to not only scout and go 7 continents but we were to run a full marathon on all 7 continents, and then we were to plunge or swim on all 7 continents in 7 days and let’s call it 7x?
John: Wow. That was your vision when David passed away. This is the catalyst, started making you home down on what you were going to do?
Ryan: Yeah, because of David’s passing and this is the only reason that this project exists. I’m going to be honest with you, I wish this project didn’t exist because there will be no other reason that I would have ever come into moving this project the way it is forward without David’s passing. David is written all over this, David is leading us through this mission. And so I love that because I’m want to keep David’s name alive, but at the same time I just wish she was here and that was that. But we’ve got a long way to go. So 7x is seven scout out of seven full marathons, seven plunges on seven continents in seven days.
John: Let’s break it down. First of all, when is this actually happening? Today is January 2nd, 2023. This is this podcast will be airing in a couple of days. When is this event Happening? How do people get involved to support to join, to be involved with all the greatness that you’re involved with in terms of the documentary that’s going to be done, the democratization of information on physical, mental, emotional, spiritual growth that’s going to be done and everything else that you’re planning here?
Ryan: We’re January 2nd like you said, February 14th this year so…
John: Which is Valentine’s Day by the way probably.
Ryan: We are going on 7x deployment which is we’re going to take off from our perspective places and fly commercially to Cape Town, and then we’ll stage to get on our airplane and then that starts the deal. And so we are going to time it based off of when we get to Antarctica, we land on the ground, when we get up into the plane to do our skydive, when I leave the plane that will trigger the time clock to start the 7-day window. And so then we have 160 hours to complete mission.
John: You’re the first man out of that plane?
Ryan: It won’t matter if I’m the first or not because we have videographer jumpers that are going to be going, but honestly it’s just when I jump and I want it to be that way. It’s because I’m probably the slowest and weakest athlete out of everybody we got.
John: By the way, I doubt that. But let’s talk about that. How many operators are going from from the cross disciplines that you just mentioned? How many civilians like me are going? What’s the cost to be involved? What’s the cost of support, et cetera? I want to get it all out there.
Ryan: Sure. So we have a scientific team and health, our human performance team coming with us in the support for that. So we have about thirty eight people on our side of the house going with us, and not every one of them are used for the scientific side but the majority of them are. Then we also have some support for the other side of the house. This is how we funded this whole project, was we made this whole thing available for people to join with us and become part of the tribe. When we say become part of the tribe, we’re not just saying fund this, give us some money and then you can come and be a bystander just watching this happen. No, we’re going to kick your ass with us. It’s going to be amazing. Do you want to live hard and be hard and do something hard? I want everybody who’s been a benefactor of this project to lead this project feeling like they truly gained something in their heart and soul for them not just for others. We’ve been funding this by selling seats on the plane for people to go on the experience of a lifetime. They are not required to do the marathons. In fact, we were not going to let them do the marathon’s unless they are a true marathon and current marathon runner to get at least a mile, they can do a 5k on each continent. They get super unique package deals on each location that our experiential that are not touristy cookie cutter. We deployed a team of Green Berets around the world earlier this year to go set these things up from the Good Ol Boy networks that we have so it’s not like you can go in and get access. You can pay a half million dollars and still never do what we’re doing. We’ve set it up for a VIP to come with us. The seat is a $100,000 and that’s all inclusive. From the time you get on our plane to the time that we finished in Dallas, Texas, food, sleep, everything that we do is completely covered. That is literally the most unbelievable bargain for this life-changing experience I’ve ever heard in my life. It’s just incredible.
John: How many VIPs are going, or how many people have bought those seats? How many do you have left?
Ryan: We have 40 seats available and we’ve sold 34 seats right now so we have six seats available.
John: Wow. Again, for our listeners and viewers who want to join, who want to learn more what Ryan is doing, you go to americanextreme.com. Let’s unpack the whole journey. So you starting in Antarctica, you fly down to Cape Town, you get on Chartered plane and you get down to Antarctica, you guys jump out of the plane. Where you going from there? Go through the 7 and and walk us through this
Ryan: Certainly. So we’re going to a very very extreme most exclusive place and Antarctica. It’s called White Desert and it’s very expensive to go there, and they have done a incredible job of making this place. It literally looks like Mars on a marshmallow. It is crazy. They’ve got pot set up, they’ve got full staff, you can eat, you can do skydiving, you could do all kinds of stuff there, it is insane. They spent a lot of money putting this together. And again, we’re taking us, Airbus A340-300. So it’s a 400 Cedar airplane all to ourselves. It’s a massive overkill for what we need, but it’ll get the job done and it’s the safest.
John: So the operators in the VIP, overall, how many people are on this journey together about?
John: 80-85. Got it. That includes support and everything else along the way. Got it. So started in Antarctica, let’s keep going on the journey here.
Ryan: We get to Antarctica, the first thing we do is we’re going to actually climatize for seconds, [inaudible] and then the jump team and this is not just the test subjects that are going to be doing this, this is also a professional athletes that are safety advisors in jumping as well. We have a battery of guys that are going to be jumping. We’ll get loaded in the plane and then we’re going to skydive. When we land, we’ve already started the 168 hours and then we start our run during the first portion of the run, all the VIPs are encouraged to come run with us because who doesn’t want to at least log a mile or two in Antarctica, we’ll be running around a nice runway. There is no runway there, it’s ice. You’re laying a humongous big bird on Ice. It’s crazy.
John: Let me say, do the VIPs also get to do tandem jumps with the operators as well if they want?
Ryan: Not in Antarctica.
John: Oh, not in Antarctica.
Ryan: In Antarctica, the winds and all that, it’s a little shifty so…
John: Got it. So it’s run and it’s getting to see one of the most unique places on this whole planet nobody else does?
Ryan: We’re going to make it to go do something unique. So they’re actually going to go mountaineering and ice rock climbing. We’re doing the final piece of our marathon, because nobody wants to sit there and watch a Marathon run and is like, “Oh my gosh.” So they go to this experience of a lifetime. They’re going to have wonderful ciao. They’re legitimately going to die in Antarctica with ease. Then I put in the contract for the VIPs. The only thing I require of everybody besides have a good attitude is you’re going to ice plunge. So you’re going to cold Plunge in Antarctica. Because I want everybody to get a picture of them in the ice in Antarctica because they will look at that forever, put it up on their wall and say, “I did this.”
John: That’s the smartest. That’s so brilliant. You’re not only obviously a great operator, that’s beautiful, I think that’s just incredible. From Antarctica, where do you guys go next?
Ryan: Right now we’re going to be flying. So once we finish our full testing, we’re going to get back on our plane, we’re flying back to Cape Town to refuel, and there we’re crossing up and over to Perth, Australia. For the test subject side of the house, it’s going to be wash, rinse, repeat every single day. A jump followed by a marathon, followed by a plunge in the water. But when we start again, everybody will get their mild guaranteed so they can move. We have roughly 55 hours of flight time. So when we get out, we want people moving and we’re going to force that into this curriculum so that you’re not just stagnant.
John: Well, I assume the flight time is the rest of recovery period for everybody that’s on this thing. There’s not a lot of rest of recovery happening on the ground?
Ryan: Correct. There’s some hotel and there’s some sleep and all that factored into the 168 on different locations. So people showers guaranteed everyday, meals guaranteed every day, plus pure supplements, good supplementation to keep you driving and going. We will have alcoholic beverages for the non-athlete test subjects on the plane. We’re also going to play poker tables in the plane. So, in case people have fun and just enjoy these little activities and there’s a lot of business activity too. There’s a lot of people in this who are going to be sharing and saying, “Oh, you do this? You do that?” That’s really cool. This is how a lot of guys are expensing it towards their companies. The saying, “This is business opportunity.” Business development at school which is true. I met with each one of our VIPs to and that’s the biggest thing is, do you have a good attitude? Because I hand selected each person on the team, I want to make sure that you’re good to bring into this vibe. I’ve already had to tell two people [inaudible]` their attitudes were just two egomaniac and I’m like, “You’re not going to fit in well here.”
John: So from a sociological point of view, out of the VIPs, the 40 that are coming, how many are men or how many women?
Ryan: So we don’t have any women that have purchased the seat yet. We do have 5-6 women that are going with us in the team. The problem that I have is I just I know men, I know too many man, I don’t know women.
John: No, there’s no problem. I just figured I’d ask. So now you get to Perth where we wash, rinse and repeat every day, where are you going after Perth?
Ryan: The VIP experience those, we’ve partnered with our Brent or our Australian SAS special operations counterparts. So they’re getting an exclusive tour of the Australian SAS museum which they don’t open the doors. This is super cool.
John: That’s super cool.
Ryan: Again, we wanted to make it something where at the end of 7x when your body says to you the week after what did you do last week? And you’re like, [laughter] I don’t know. How do you explain how much time do you have?
John: It sounds like every day is going to be a lot of experience that they can literally talk about singularly for the rest of their life. Nonetheless, putting 7 of them together in 7 days.
Ryan: That’s exactly right. This is a bucket list, item x7, insane. And on top of that, we’ve put in a 30-minute section on each continent to basically ask you to shut your cell phones down. For 30 minutes, you’re going to be present in nature and see the reality in the beauty of how awesome we are living. So, once we get done with Perth and we’re going to cruise to Dubai. Really unique the experience there, I have a battery of things that are lined up right now. There’s indoor skiing and snowboarding and then there’s also having dinner at the Burj Al Arab. Apparently, there’s a dinner underwater, which is unique [chuckles]. Then I believe that they’re already sectioned off to for… There’s a deepest pool in the world to dive. So it’s a plethora of things to go do that are very unique. Again for us the same thing, this one we might be able to BASE jump as well. We’re working on it right now but this one would be the Princess Tower which is a huge tower adjacent to the beach. It would just be another unique thing to study because BASE jumping is much more dangerous and much more gut-wrenching than a skydive. So can capture that information, heart rate, variability, and all these things and understand what is this doing for us fight or flight? Once we do Dubai, then we’ll cruise to Cairo. And in Cairo, this is where our VIPs get a tandem skydive over the pyramids which is absolutely incredible like jumping over one of the 7 Wonders of the World.
John: Come on cream. That doesn’t happen. You can live a lot of lifetimes and that’s just not happening.
Ryan: That’s right. And then they’ll get a walk through the pyramids, of course because you cannot go there and not touch the Sphinx or at least see the Sphinx and then go check on her. It’s okay to get that. We’re working on maybe some camel riding [laughter]. Then we shoot out up to London. And London is a very exciting. I’m so sad that I don’t get to participate in this one because when everybody else is having the fun after we’ve completed Marathon, we’re sleeping and we’re fueling and sleeping. But they have this thing called a beefeaters where it’s believed in the London Tower. It’s a very exclusive group that gets together. It’s invite only, you have to wear a suit and tie like James Bond, and you have this wonderful place you go to have cocktails and eat incredible meal and just dial it down with feel professional. It’s really neat. I’m all about James Bond, that’s like my thing so the fact that I’m missing this in London pisses me off.
John: I didn’t get that. Why you missing this?
Ryan: We’ll be at marathon 5 [inaudible].
John: Oh yeah, you’re missing, got to rest up. After we talked about the VIP experience, I want to go back to your experience on this. So what happens after London then?
Ryan: We cruise all the way down to Cartagena, Colombia, South America, beautiful place. We’re going out to a place called Old Town at there. So really get within the old-school side of the house, because we’re not going out there for the fancy resorts and now we’re going out there for the experiential, this is Columbia, this is the place. We’re going to run around town. There’s going to be activities. Right now, we’re working on something private with the Colombian Navy for VIPs to do. Then we shoot on up for a final stunt 27 which would be Dallas, Texas just outside of Dallas [inaudible]. There’s a small little tiny, they call it a lake but it’s a pond and that’s where we’ll end up doing around that. We’ll park everybody hotels. I’m not going to release what the VIPs are going to do in Dallas, but it’s going to be very unique and they feel like they’ve actually done something challenging. But also the thing is, people have asked several times of VIPs, you don’t have to be in any specific shape in order to do these challenges. That’s the key. We’re not asking you to do full marathon. So you can have fun and enjoy and know that whatever opportunity you’re going to come up, you can actually do. The last thing I’ll say about the experiential side of the house is we have factored in which we actually sold a seat based off of this alone. When we are finished with Antarctica before we leave, we have guaranteed block time for a snowball fight against special operators, so it should be awesome.[laughter]
John: Let’s go over some of the macro details that are important still. 501 C3, this is a full right for anyone who writes a check to this, whether it’s a company or whether it’s personal, they get a right off you.
Ryan: That’s right. The [inaudible] cost a $100,000 and it’s a full right off to a 501 C3. We have a website called join7x.com, and that is the experiential treatment. If you sign up in there, it’ll go directly to me and then I respond to you to get you started.
John: Got it join7x.com. americanextreme.com also is your website. What’s going to happen to this great organization post this journey? What are some of the great benefits besides that manual that you’re going to be putting together? This is going to be made into a documentary film as well, what’s going to be the long-term benefits with the Human Performance Project and the American Extreme and everything you’re going to be doing post it? By the way, how old are you Ryan?
Ryan: I’m 39?
John: Oh my God, it’s incredible what you’ve accomplished and to be such a young man. Obviously you got runway, so many decades of life ahead of you, God willing, 100 years of life ahead of you, what’s your intent? What’s your mission and goal post this great event coming up, it starts on February 14?
Ryan: The ultimate goal personally for me is one making the manual. That’s why going to 7 continents exposes that to all 7 obviously because we’re a little different scenario, but to get as many manuals as we can sold because it’s going to only better that person that has the copy of it. A hundred percent of the net profit proceeds from the manual will go to the charities that we are supporting on this whole project in perpetuity. It’s about continually feeding them as opposed to giving them a one-time deal and then having to go, that’s go continually fundraise. Every time my manual sold, money is going to be dispersed to these causes, and that’s the goal is in perpetuity continue to fund these missions so that they can continue to help the greater good. Ultimate goal with human performance as a whole we can continue to add to it. We’re always going to focus on the basics, and so we don’t need to come up with these extraordinary lavish things. Like, “This is a new way to do this work out of wherever,” it’s about focusing on the basics and fine-tuning those basics. That’s how you become a elite. Taking this information and then talking with the government about implementing it into the military training as a human performance training block, getting it into the first responder communities as a human performance training block. Then ultimately my big goal would be education system.
John: In your mind today, I know everything doesn’t work out perfectly because perfect doesn’t exist on this planet. But on a whiteboard when you’re planning everything post the journey, when does the manual come out? Six months, a year, 2 years after the journey? When does that manual get published?
Ryan: Goal is 2023. So end of the year, we’re not sure if it’s third fourth quarter, that’s our goal but we’re not 100% certain yet. We are starting to put the outlines together right now, and getting the right to recognize the correct ghost writers in to help with that implementation because it’s got to read clear, got to read clean.
John: Does it coincide with the release of the documentary or they’re separate?
Ryan: We consider the release of the documentary our marketing opportunity and marketing arm for the manual. So the manual be ready to go when that documentary comes out to explain it.
John: You’re thirty nine years old, you’ve done a whole shit ton, excuse my French, of difficult things in your life. Level of difficulty of this physically, mentally, emotionally, for the folks like you who are actually going to be doing this, all the marathon’s, the BASE jumps, the plunges, everything, what level of difficulty here?
Ryan: The challenge is really difficult. I have a broken tibia right now. I ran a full marathon yesterday it’s not fun, but I do know this project to me is not supposed to be fun. This project to me is to really gain some answers, and get myself back in the seat of wearing the uniform because we just continually keep losing. I just lost another teammate a week and a half ago to suicide, it’s all over the news.
John: Still Team 7 SEAL mate?
Ryan: He was the new incoming commanding officer [inaudible]. It’s supposed to be painful. This is supposed to be hard. Everything that’s worth it is supposed to be difficult, it’s not supposed to be easy. It’s been brutal this year. The fact is we’re trying to raise capital in a time where people are truly starting to see the economic outcomes of what COVID has done. And so that’s difficult. Then I’ve dealt with a lot of people who just don’t keep their word. I’m in, I’m out, having to chase people down and dealing with people is always a unique thing. It’s been very difficult this year to try to not only be an athlete test subject and train all these miles and put all this stuff together, but then at the same time, raise this capital and ensure that we are doing this. That has been really brutal. But I know at the end of the day, when we get back February 23rd, I’m just going to have a lot of love in my heart because I know that all the struggles and all the tough times this year and last year was all because of this and we’re going to have a solid outcome.
John: About a year ago or so, I had one of the leading experts on, and I’m not a scientist, the use of micro dosing to help people mentally recover from their trauma. Is that actually making a dent in veteran affairs, or is it not even come down yet to that level of veterans getting the opportunity to take advantage of all the years of study on micro dosing and the ability to help people unwind some of their horrific trauma?
Ryan: That’s a great question. As far as any psilocybin or any psychedelic medicine, there’s a difference between Madison[?] and Slyke[?] and recreational drugs in the way that it’s used. We’ve seen tremendous gains from guys going to do these treatments to distressing themselves and there are certain stressors that are just a norm. I had two young children, my two boys, they’re 100 miles an hour all the time and they want to find each other all the time. And that’s a stressor that is just a constant, but it’s not a stressor where I’m like I’m doing with my life here. The veteran community is got through that, I actually went through a psychedelic treatment in October in New Mexico, and it was life-changing. It doesn’t fix your issues, but what it does is it helps you reset. So I want to start from scratch, I want to go moving forward and I need that help because I’m carrying
too much burden right now. So that’s fantastic. The micro dosing stuff? I’m 100% on doing it. I’m waiting for stuff to come in so that I can start testing it, because I am going to be a complete test subject for anything I could do to help the veteran first our communities. It always say that stuff, but it’s all about community If you’re a person who’s struggling, it doesn’t matter what uniform shirt you wore, if you’re struggling, you’re struggling and these struggles are real across the board. So if there’s opportunities or a medical medicine here, we got to go away from the stigmas, the stuff was wrong and it’s unacceptable, it’s God’s gift to the Earth. Everything that was planted in this Earth and on this Earth was cut was built by God from God. If we use it in the correct way, could truly help the outcome of our life. I don’t hold anything back. I certainly don’t say that, that’s not right, because it’s considered a drug, not consider it medicine. I don’t drink, I don’t do recreational drugs and trying to get rid of any kind of habit that I have like bad habit or whatnot. I chewed tobacco for a long time, quit that I was brutal by the way, because I love chewing tobacco. There’s so many different things we can do to make ourselves good habits. Invest in your health and your life. You have one of them. You only get one option, one chime one time to do it. So why don’t you feel your body correctly?
John: I’m so glad you shared your own personal experience with micro dosing. I believe in the show notes of course, we’ll put suicide prevention hotlines. I believe the new number in the United States is 988 if I’m not mistaken?
Ryan: Well, maybe.
John: I’ll make sure we put in our show notes if anyone is considering suicide, obviously, it’s not the way to go. And we’ll put some great resources in our show notes to help people. What you’re doing is just amazing. Talk a little bit about BASE jumping, level of difficulty to learn how to BASE jump. Obviously, you are an elite of the elite. But how for just civilians in terms of BASE jumping, how difficult is this and what you’re doing?
Ryan: I actually asked the elite of the elite base jumpers to join us on this team, because one of them from a safety perspective, and I love them. Every one of them were like, “We’re in.” It’s insane. This is what my buddy Duke says, it’s hilarious. He goes, “BASE Jumping is the easiest sport in the world until it goes wrong.” [laughter] That’s the truth. You have to have a minimum of 200 skydives in order to get into any type of BASE jumping course. They want you to have the understanding of discipline, the emergency procedures of a canopy. They also want you to understand canopy characteristics, how to fly, how to land it because you need to land in small areas. Once you start to get to that point, then you can start going, pay the money to go through a first BASE jump course. Two of our guys in the team run the two best in the country in the world actually. Once you go through that and it’s a progression, it’s on you. It’s big boy rules, big girl rules. I’ve gone up to exit points before that are known exit points to jump. And I just had a weird feeling, my stomach something just didn’t feel right. I was like, “I’m not feeling right right now. I’m going to just walk back down this 2-hour hike back down as opposed to jump and have a ten-second ride and get on the ground easily and right back at the car.” Because it just didn’t feel right and it’s called big boy rules, big girl rules. You know what? There’s no problems with that. You have to man or woman up and say I’m going to make a call today because that could be your life. You don’t mess around with this stuff now more than ever because I have children, I don’t BASE jump nearly as much as I used to. You have to think about these scenarios. I put an error box around everything I do mathematically. We’re jumping from 200 feet and I feel my go-to is 200 feet, maybe I’m going to jump from 250, I’ll jump from 270 just so I give myself an air box, a window of time mathematically. It’s insane when things go wrong, it becomes the most primal thing in the world because you have to fix it quick and get out of the scenario to save your life. The other side of BASE jumping though is you go to the most beautiful places in the world to do it. It’s not legal in most places in this country. So you got to go to Switzerland, and you got to go to Sweden [chuckles] and Norway, France. I twist my arm, [laughter] beautiful. The people are unique, they’re very nice and they cherish your life because they don’t want you to make bad decisions. From that perspective, it’s just such a cool thing.
John: Listen, running 7 marathons in 7 days, I know we talked about earlier before we even got on the air, is something out of a the next level rich roll timed on steroids type stuff. But on a broken tibia, I can’t even imagine what you’re mentally even getting up for that nonetheless getting through the day by day of that. How do you prepare mentally and emotionally for what’s already going to be uncomfortable if you were perfect healthy shape, but the demons and dongs that you get in training and a broken tibia obviously is a little bit of worst-case planning? How do you prepare emotionally and mentally for something like that before you get on February 14?
Ryan: I’m not looking at this as a it’s got to happen, it’s got to be finished. For me, I’m going back into that. Same mentality I had for hell week and I’m going all in, giving everything. We’re going to see what happens. But if my bone breaks, it’s a hairline fracture.
John: Got it.
Ryan: If it breaks, there are several other athletes they’re going to continue on and goes back to the room. It sucks. Yep. You finish.
John: What an attitude man. Listen, we could spend hours more today. I know you’re doing the documentary, the memoriam for David Metcalf today, David O Metcalf. I don’t want to take any more of your top precious time today, but this has been beyond an honor to have you on today Ryan, and I want our listeners and viewers again to support everything you’re up to. sonsoftheflag.org, you can buy also Ryan’s great book, Sons of the Flag: Real Accounts from the last 100 years of American Service. Besides American Extreme, talk about that direct email that goes to you if people want to sign up and become one of the last 6 VIPs that join this incredible mission.
Ryan: Go to join7x.com and it will go directly to me. At the bottom of it, is a 4 little places to fill out your information. It sends to me and then we’ll have a conversation. I will call you right after it comes into because we don’t have much time left to get you slated for clearances for all 7 continents and that. But,` this is an opportunity of a lifetime, a once-in-a-lifetime deal. You don’t want to miss it if you can afford it.
John: Ryan Birdman Parrott, first of all, thank you for your service. You are a great American hero, and thank you for making the world a better place every day of your life. Thanks again for today.
Ryan: Thank you. Honored to be here.
John: This episode of the Impact Podcast is brought to you by Closed Loop Partners. Closed Loop Partners is a leading circular economy investor in the United States with an extensive network of Fortune 500 corporate investors, family offices, institutional investors, industry experts and Impact partners. Closed Loop’s platform spans the arc of capital from venture capital to private equity, bridging gaps, and fostering synergies to scale the circular economy. To find Closed Loop Partners, please go to www.closedlooppartners.com. This episode of the Impact Podcast is brought to you by co2.com. Companies today are trying to figure out how to achieve high quality climate credentials, co2.com is the easy button for any business to go beyond offsetting and find truly impactful projects across carbon, nature and Community. CO2 provides verified metrics that can be used in reporting and messaging. Have confidence in demonstrating your climate leadership. Go to co2.com to access quality climate credentials you can trust on the road to net zero and nature positive.