Ryan Tate sat in his high school English class and watched in horror as terrorists took down the World Trade Center and Pentagon. He had a strong urge to fight on the front lines, and he knew the Marines would provide him with an opportunity to do just that. So he signed his enlistment papers at age 16, received his high school diploma early, and skipped high school graduation to attend Bootcamp at Parris Island in 2003, where he earned the title United States Marine.
As an Infantryman, Ryan participated in some of the most intense battles of the Iraq war. He earned awards for combat valor, “Marine of the Year,” and “Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year.” His service took him to Southeast Asia to train foreign militaries and assist in counter-piracy operations. Ryan says, “Being a Marine allowed me to see humanity’s best and the worst. The contrast is humbling, and I wouldn’t trade my experiences for anything in the world.”
After leaving the Marine Corps, Ryan continued his service to our nation with the U.S. Department of State. He served on protective details for high-profile diplomats, both foreign and domestic. After four years with State, Ryan was at home on a Sunday evening and watched a documentary that exposed him to the atrocities of poaching in Africa and the damage that the illegal international wildlife trade had on developing African communities. One particular scene of a female rhino dying a slow, painful death after poachers sawed her face off gave Ryan a gut punch that changed the course of his life forever.
In 2013, Ryan took an exploratory research trip to Tanzania at the invitation of President Kikwete and the Ministry for Natural Resources and Tourism. His mentors at the State Department connected him to Government Officials from several African nations to discuss their wildlife protection needs. Each official he spoke with recognized the importance of providing their country’s park rangers with specialized military training. It became even more apparent to him during this trip that veterans and their skills would be a game-changer for park rangers and conservationists in the fight to protect endangered species.
After returning home from his first trip to Africa, Ryan resigned from the U.S. Department of State and founded Veterans Empowered To Protect African WIldlife.