“Where are they now?” This question is usually posed regarding child stars, lesser-known characters from television shows long canceled, or bands no longer in the spotlight, but have you ever seen an iconic photo of people who aren’t famous and thought, “I wonder what those guys are up to?” Maybe you have and maybe you haven’t, or maybe you’ve known someone from one of those photos and never even knew it was them. That was me. For several years.
In June of 2014, six months post-partum, I walked into CrossFit Sand Springs and what I remember most about that first day is how many people greeted me and immediately being overwhelmed at how many names I was going to have to remember. There were a lot of them! Names of people. Names of equipment. Names of movements. Names of workouts. Names of shoes. Over the next several months I was able to learn a few names from each category, but thankfully, over the last (almost) seven years I’ve been able to learn more than just the names.
One of those names was Ryan Long. Ryan had just started working for Oklahoma Highway Patrol and his wife, Emily, was in her 4th year as a Game Warden. We bonded over CrossFit. We bonded over gun talk. In November of 2014, even though I hadn’t learned nearly enough names or nearly enough movements, Ryan convinced me to compete in my first CrossFit team competition and stood by me and encouraged me the whole way, despite my lack of experience and serious lack of cardiovascular endurance, which is turns out is actually kind of important for a CrossFit competition. Later, in the summer of 2015, Ry and Emily came down for my husband’s big birthday shindig. After everyone else went to bed, Ryan and I sat up all night, watched MotoGP movies and talked about motorcycles. It turned out that while he was in California, stationed in the Marines, he had taken to riding and racing. I was an avid AMA and MotoGP fan and it was another thing we really bonded over. We even had the same favorite MotoGP rider, Nicky Hayden, and supported the same Texan in the AMA Superbike rivalry.
We talked about a lot of things, but one of the things he never really talked about was his time in combat. We all knew he was a Marine and I had heard around the gym that he was in some well-known battle, but without military or combat experience myself, I never felt comfortable bringing it up other than a “thank you” here and there and a “happy birthday” text on November 10th. He never really brought it up either. I wasn’t sure if it was something he didn’t want to relive or something he just didn’t like to talk about with civilians who hadn’t “been there,” but I never really thought much about it.
Then one day at the gym, THIS photo popped up (as it does from time to time on the news or on social media) and for whatever reason, I held up my phone and said, “Man, can you imagine what that must have been like?”, and there was a kind of chuckle from one of the guys who said, “Why don’t you ask Ry? That’s him”, and he pointed at my phone. So, here’s the thing… I knew Ryan was a good dude and I knew he was stout, and I knew he was definitely someone I wanted on my side and not someone I would want to pick a fight with. I knew he was a combat experienced Marine. I knew I owed him gratitude, in general, for his service to our country. I also knew every year at Murph he tried a little harder, bled a little more, and shed tears for different reasons than I did. I didn’t know he was a war hero. I didn’t know he had been awarded TWO Medals of Valor and a Purple Heart for his service in the 1st Battalion 5th Marines Alpha Company. I didn’t know that the 1st Battalion 5th Marines is the most decorated unit in the Marine Corps. All of those things are things I didn’t know because he never would have told me if I hadn’t asked him about the photo. In addition to being courageous and brave and a great friend, the guy is also incredibly humble.
He was recently the recipient of the Presidential Volunteer Award, but that brings us to the original question… so, where is he now?
One of the things Ryan and Emily have in common is a love for the great outdoors and hunting. In 2017, Ryan contacted The FEW, The Foundation for Exceptional Warriors interested in being a participant in their program and, after an interview, he was invited up to Two Hats Ranch for a guided hunt with the organization. If you’re not familiar with the FEW, I recommend looking them up, but for perspective on what they do, this is their mission statement:
“Our Mission – To provide adventures to unite, reward, and inspire those that have served together to heal together.
Mission Focus – Special Operations Forces, Ex-Prisoners of War, Purple Heart recipients and those recognized with awards for Valor of every era.”
Ryan checks all those focus boxes with the exception of being a POW. While on that first guided hunt, Ry used his cell phone and drone camera to capture footage of his hunt and his experience at the ranch. When he got home, he put together a short video and sent it to them as a token of his appreciation for allowing the FEW to use their facility to host his hunt. After seeing the video and having met and gotten to know Ryan, they immediately extended the invitation for him to return the following year and asked him to create a video to commemorate that event as well. He obliged. When Emily found out that the ranch also hosts a week-long hunting event for children with disabilities or significant health issues, she volunteered to go to Michigan and create a commemorative video for that event also. (If you’re asking yourself right now if they might have more in common than hunting, you would be right. One of the owners of Two Hats Ranch is also an avid CrossFitter.)
In addition to working full time at OHP, Ryan also acts as the one of the Lead Instructors for Outdoor Solutions: Hunting and Fishing Destinations, a long-range shooting school that provides range instruction and training along with a “field to table” experience. Outdoor Solutions has facilities in Texas and Utah and when looking to expand to the northeast, Ryan put them in touch with Two Hats Ranch and another collaboration was born.
After a while, people started asking questions. “How do you get to go hunting so much? How do you process and prepare the animals to eat? How do you cook wild game?” To them, the answer seemed simple: we’ll show them.
Shortly after that conversation, The Way We Hunt Youtube channel was formed and they began sharing their adventures and knowledge with the rest of us. Of course, I love the show, but it’s possible that I’m biased because I really like them both as people, so I invite you to see for yourself. If you like the outdoors, hunting, witty banter, enjoy couples who don’t mind poking fun at each other, want to learn to hunt or cook wild game or might enjoying “meeting” and learning about Ryan and the guest hunters and lodge hosts, take a moment and check them out on Facebook and subscribe to their Youtube channel.
It's free to subscribe, but if you’re looking to “try before you buy”, follow these links to a few of my favorite teasers and videos:
Above: The FEW & 345 Ranch Annual Hero Hunt (2019)
When he isn’t spending time as an associate for The FEW, teaching long-range shooting for Outdoor Solutions, or filming his and Emily’s private hunts for The Way We Hunt, he can be found in their garage (the headquarters for Long Term Addiction Euros) where he utilizes several taxidermy methods to European mount skulls for local hunters who otherwise might not be able to take home a trophy.
The Way We Hunt :
Florida Alligator Hunt Teaser:
How to Hunt Florida Alligators (Full Video):