Honors student and veteran Ryan Wadding reflects on Great American Cities trips to New York and Hawaii

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April 13, 2017

Ryan Wadding is a junior in Barrett Honors College majoring in political science. He also is a veteran, having served in the U.S. Marines from 2012 to 2015. In addition to his studies, he currently works in outreach for the ASU Pat Tillman Veterans Center. He recently traveled on Barrett Great American Cities trips to New York and Hawaii. Here are his reflections on the trips.

Ryan Wadding

Ryan Wadding taking in the sights in Honolulu.

My name is Ryan. I am a Barrett student studying Political Science. I am also a military veteran. This fall and spring I traveled with Barrett to New York City and Honolulu. I was so happy and grateful that I could attend both trips, I felt compelled to share two related experiences that happened on both excursions. I write this not just for student veterans, but anyone who may be considering traveling with Barrett but might be hesitant to for whatever reason. I believe travel is important to personal growth, but I understand life gets in the way. But maybe after reading this you will try to do some travel while you are here in college.

The reason I wanted to travel to New York City and Honolulu was because they were the locations of two events, while happening 60 years apart, that had a profound impact on not only the United States, but the rest of the world. On December 7, 1941, the U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu was attacked and on September 11, 2001 the World Trade Center in New York City was attacked. Both events caused the direct deaths of thousands of individuals, but also have arguably caused the indirect deaths of countless others. For these reasons and for personal ones, I wanted to go to both cities. And what better opportunity than to travel with students from my own college?

I was in the 2nd grade when 9/11 occurred. I remember waking up that day and realizing that my mother had not woken me up. This was not unusual because I regularly woke up before she wanted me to. I got up and the house was quiet. This was unusual because my mother was the caretaker for a dozen or so children that went to school with me, and they usually arrived before I woke and were loud, as children are. I went to the living room and found my mother alone with no children watching a TV that was showing a building on fire. I remember the rest of day being unusual and sad. I do not think anyone knew what was going on and they had no idea how to react. And kids can tell. Even though my mother did not want me to watch the TV and the teachers were trying to act normal, we could tell that day was not normal. Not to mention the ridiculous rumors spreading like wildfire among the students.

Freedom Tower

The Freedom Tower in New York City.

Fast forward 15 years and I was at the 9/11 museum and memorial while on the Barrett Great American Cities trip to New York City. I did not want to go alone, so I found a student who wanted to go as well and we went together. As we were both walking through the museum and looking at the displays she asked me this: “Do you remember 9/11?” I told her of course I remember and asked her if she did. Before she answered I realized than I am 5 years older than she is. She then told me that she did not remember any of it. This made me realize that I was experiencing this museum with someone who was alive for 9/11 but to her it was not a memory at all, it was something she has read and heard about from others. And although I did not personally experience the tragedy, I had memories of the day associated with it.

I will admit, I did cry. Luckily, I had a fellow student who cried with me and I did not feel so bad for crying in public. I cried not just for the victims of the attacks. I cried because I thought about the many lives that have been lost since those attacks. That day prompted our government to bring the country and many others into two wars and for years no one could see an end in sight, and maybe we still do not. Disregarding my personal political beliefs and yours for a moment, we can all agree that many lives have been lost since, and thus there are plenty of lessons to learn.

Going to the Pearl Harbor memorial and museum was a bit different. Obviously, I have no memory of that event, because it happened many decades before my birth. To me the attack on Pearl Harbor is something I have read about and heard of through the eyes of those who were present. Instead, my personal connection with Pearl Harbor is my service in the military. In addition to the 68 civilians who were killed because of the attack, 2,403 service members lost their lives as well.

As a walked over the sunken U.S.S. Arizona, I could not help but remember that I was walking over the grave of many service members. When one gets to the end of the Arizona memorial, there is a giant wall with the names of all the sailors and Marines that died aboard that ship. When I saw the section devoted to the Marines who died, and I saw their names and their ranks, I felt a spiritual bond with those Marines. When I saw all the names of those Marines with which I shared the same ranks and who were presumably 18- to 19-year-old men, I could not help but think of my time as an 18-year-old Marine. And as for all those times we were told that we were following in the steps of great men, this was it. These were the guys we were following and representing every day. And that experience was deeply special to me.

Broadway theater playbill

The Playbill for Chicago, the Broadway play Ryan Wadding saw while in New York.

In addition to traveling to both cities to visit both museums, I also did other things in each city. The organizers for both trips did an excellent job structuring group events while also giving us plenty of time where we were free to explore the city. During my free time in New York I saw Chicago on Broadway and in Hawaii I learned how to surf from a local. When I tell people about surfing in Hawaii and seeing a show on Broadway in New York they always want to know more. The only problem with going to these cities and doing all the things I did? Wanting to go back and do them and more, of course.  

Ryan Wadding on beach

Ryan Wadding on the beach in Hawaii.

I also met a lot of great people and made some lasting friendships. I met locals in both cities that were wonderful individuals (yes including Manhattan where their reputation for being rude is outrageously undeserved). In Hawaii, I saw one of my buddies who I have not seen in years. I was stationed with him in the states. He is now stationed on the Marine Corps Base in Hawaii. In addition to all those great people, I also befriended the students I traveled with. While we were all Barrett students, we all came from different majors and campuses. But now, I have 40 or so new friends.

I shared both these experiences not to make any sort of statement, but just to make a point about travel. Traveling to both cities allowed me to connect to an aspect of each city that meant a lot to me personally. And, to be quite honest, I do not know when I would have traveled to both of these locations. One aspect of Barrett I love is its emphasis on student travel. If a Barrett student wants to travel up north, or out of the state, or out of the country, then the college will work to make it happen. And in my opinion, there is no better time to travel than right now, in college.

Editors note: Barrett Honors College offers many travel opportunities for students. Learn more about Barrett Honors College travel opportunities.

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