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Selfless Service, On and Off Duty 
MILFORD, Mass. – Zachery, age 8, won first place for crowd favorite with his “Ryan 1/181,” pinewood derby car.  He is one of three children that Staff Sgt. Ryan Buckert took under his wing prior to deploying to Afghanistan with the 1st Battalion, 181st Infantry Regiment.  (Photo Courtesy of Gerry Hanna)
Story by Spc. Jeremiah J. Clark, Massachusetts National Guard Public Affairs Office 

MILFORD, Mass. - Whoever said one person can’t make a difference, never met Massachusetts National Guard’s Staff Sgt. Ryan Buckert of the 1-181st Infantry Battalion. They’ve also never spoken to Mrs. Gerry Hanna, a grateful mom of three growing boys who are counting the days until Buckert returns home. 

In august of 2004 we started foster care for three young children, said Hanna, of Liverpool, New York. The children, Zachary, now eight, David, now 13, and Marcus, now 16, were adopted by Hanna in 2007.

“These three boys’ came from broken homes where there was no male figure at all for them their whole life,” said Hanna. “So coming into care, the children had no idea how to deal with a male figure. David and Zachery did well as they were young when we adopted them.  Marcus had a lot of anger at not knowing where his life was going.”

Last summer we decided to make a trip to Massachusetts to reconnect with family I hadn't seen in many years,” said Hanna. “This is where we got to know Sergeant Buckert better.

Buckert was drawn to the children after hearing their story, said Hanna. Buckert, of Springfield, and his wife, Tara, have three young boys, Brenden, Austin, and Hunter.

After hearing their story, Buckert took the children under his wing, said Hanna. 

“He sat down and talked to them, which showed them that people care,” said Hanna.

These words opened the boys up and gave them hope in their own way”, said Hanna. “They spent time with Sergeant Buckert, playing basketball, and different things for the few days we were there.

We went back home, and the boy's had asked if we could go back to Massachusetts so they could see Ryan, so we made plans and returned. Ryan made a big deal over them coming to see him, which just boosted the boy's self Esteem.

He talked about how life was in the National Guard and showed them all he could, said Hanna.

From that day on Buckert made time for the children, said Hanna.  He took them fishing and did other activities. He explained what his life was like and how they could change their life if they put their mind to it.

"After this visit we made these visits as much as we could, said Hanna. "Every trip, we never saw our boy's as they went right to see Ryan and he had plans for them, they went fishing, shopping and picnics. Ryan talked to the boy's about life and what their life could have been like if we didn't adopt them. I didn't push to find out what was said, it didn't matter to my husband and I, as we saw a big change in our boy's since Ryan had been in their life.

"There was never a time that we were in Massachusetts, that Ryan didn't leave an impact on our boys," said Hanna.

"Since then, the oldest, Marcus is working towards his eagle scout and is a Junior Firefighter", said Hanna. "David planned a project with his Cub Scout troop that collected food and everyday items to send overseas."

“Zachery made a pinewood derby car for our yearly race,” said Hanna.  “He named it the Ryan car, 1/181 Infantry.  His car took crowd favorite and third place in the race.              

In the end, Buckert has changed the lives of these three children, said Hanna. 

If it wasn’t for Ryan I don’t know where these boys would be right now, said Hanna.


EDITOR’S NOTE: Staff Sgt. Buckert is serving a one-year deployment in Afghanistan, and as tribute to his selfless sacrifice both here at home and abroad, Mrs. Hanna shared this story as a tribute to him for the difference he’s made in the lives of so many.