James “Jim” Ryan, a 90-year-old resident of Vietnam Veterans Keith Payne VC Hostel in Noraville on the NSW Central Coast, is sharing his stories of service and sacrifice with the community.
Jim was born in Australia in 1933 and moved to the United States at the age of 18, becoming a U.S. citizen. He served in the Australian Navy during the Korean War, and then the U.S. Army during the Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation and the Gulf War.
In Korea, Jim was on board the HMAS Condamine when he and his crew were tasked with rescuing a downed Australian pilot. They were strafed by a Russian MIG during the rescue attempt, but they were all able to make it back safely. Jim was awarded a Mention in Dispatches for his actions.
After Korea, Jim returned to the United States and continued his service in the Army. He was an Honorary Major for the U.S. during the Gulf War, where he was responsible for commissioning air conditioning, water treatment, sewage and aviation turbine fuel tankage.
“I learned a lot about teamwork and leadership during my time in the Army,” said Jim. “I also learned the importance of never giving up, no matter how tough things get.”
After the Gulf War, Jim retired from the Army and travelled all over the world. He lived in the United States, United Kingdom, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia before moving back to Australia in 1987. In Australia, he worked as an engineer for Bechtel Corporation, where he worked on a number of major projects, including the Amoco refinery in Brisbane, the Portland Aluminium Smelter in Victoria and Queensland Alumina Limited.
Jim and his wife Gloria went on to have two daughters and one son. Sadly, their daughters have passed away. The couple continue to value family, and are particularly close to their supportive grandson, Michael.
“Our grandson Michael is our rock. He is a testament to the goodness of people. He’s always willing to help out, no matter what,” said Jim.
The couple owned a lovely home at The Entrance on the Central Coast before moving into care at Vietnam Veterans Keith Payne VC Hostel in 2020. They made this decision as Gloria needed full-time care and he did not want them to be separated. They have rooms next to each other and continue loving to spend time with each other.
“We are exceptionally happy with our lives here at Vietnam Veterans. The staff are friendly and caring, the activities are always varied and interesting, and the facilities are top-notch,” said Jim. “We feel safe and secure here and know that we are in good hands.”
These days, Jim spends his time on the computer, buying and creating models for his room. He is very interested in military history and has donated a statue of the prisoners of war in Sandakan. Jim is working with some friends to obtain some Vietnam War memorabilia for the facility which we hope to have displayed soon.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to share my stories with the community,” said Jim. “I hope that my experiences can inspire others to make a difference in the world.”
Jim’s story is an inspiration to us all. He is a true patriot who has dedicated his life to service and sacrifice. We are grateful for his willingness to share his stories with us, and we are proud to call him a member of our community.