Above / 1ST LT RYAN NOVACK, USAF, a member of Team USA in the recent Invictus Games 2018, is now back in Guam, pictured here on Nov. 25 in front of a “Universal Maintenance Stand” used for multiple maintenance and countermeasure loading tasks on aircraft.

“I am the Flight Commander of the Aerospace Ground Equipment Flight,” Ryan explained. “So we are charged with maintaining, inspecting, and servicing about 650 different pieces of equipment to support flying operations out of Guam.” Ryan added, “Hafa Adai! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to my wonderful family, friends, and neighbors. Wishing I could share in our traditions with you and missing the sweater weather!”

“Hafa Adai” is Chamorro for “Hello,” the indigenous language. Photo by TSgt Patrick White.

Folks interested in City Council meetings are accustomed to seeing Bill Novack sit up front with City Staff in order to address issues that fall under his watch as Director of Transportation/ Engineering/ Development (TED).

When Novack was noticeably absent recently, PN figured he must be returning from Australia where he and his wife, Karri, went to watch their son, Ryan, age 26, compete for a week of remarkable athletic and human performance on land and on sea during the Invictus Games 2018 in Sydney.

Prince Harry, founder of the Invictus Games in 2014, created the international games to shine light on the recovery, rehabilitation and resilience of individuals who have been injured both physically and mentally, while serving their country in the military.

The adaptive multi-sport competition features teams and individual veterans taking part in sports such as wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball, indoor rowing, track cycling and sailing. Among Ryan’s competitions were swimming and sailing for Team USA.

The Prince and his wife, Meghan Markle, praised the devoted Novacks in the news after spending time with them on a boat where they’d watched the sailing competition together.

(Readers who search online for “Invictus Games Sydney 2018 Ryan Novack” will find stories referencing the achievements of the 2010 graduate of Marmion who grew up in Aurora.)

Briefly stated, 1st LT Ryan Novack, USAF, has been stationed at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam since July 2015 where he serves as a Munitions Production Flight Commander.

In June 2016, Ryan suffered a paralyzing spinal cord injury caused by a dirt bike accident. First he was airlifted to Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii. A month later, he was transferred to the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. Through his “dedication, hard work and positive attitude” supported by family and friends, Ryan not only was up to compete in the Invictus Games 2018 in late October, but he finished the Ironman in Florida in early November.

He’s now back in Guam, humble and reflecting on his recent achievements.

“Sailing was my favorite because it was new and required a lot of teamwork, communication and strategy,” Ryan wrote in an email. “It’s also the only sport where I wasn’t doing anything adaptive. Swimming has classifications, but sailing was all open (no adaptations). The sailing culture was also really cool and so was learning the terms and phrases in sailing.”

Ryan’s mother, Karri, added that not one member of the sailing team had any previous sailing experience. “The only experience Ryan had was a Boy Scout merit badge back in middle school!”

Karri sent photos from Ryan’s sailing competition in Farm Cove/Sydney Harbour that unfortunately will not reproduce well on newsprint. One impressive photo features the Novacks with Cam and Aileen Wayland, owners of the sailboat Hunky Dory, where they’re seated next to the Duchess of Sussex and Prince Harry to watch Ryan’s competition.

Reporters for online “HOLA!” mentioned the royal couple, “Throughout the sailing race, the pair were both in great spirits, laughing and smiling as they chatted with a couple who had been placed on their boat: Karri and Bill Novack, from Illinois, whose son Ryan, 26, suffered a spinal cord injury in 2016. Ryan is a member of Team USA.”

While gathering info early in November about Ryan’s accomplishments in Australia, Karri answered PN, saying that he was the middle of an Ironman in Florida.

“He keeps challenging himself,” Karri said.

Karri also noted how much they enjoyed the whole week watching 18 different countries compete as more than 500 athletes supported each other.

“I’d very much like to highlight the Friends and Family program,” Karri wrote. “The Fisher House Foundation sponsored two family/friends for each competitor from the U.S. to attend the games. They treated us like VIPs. They flew us there, put us in a beautiful hotel and provided meals every day. They even provided the Invictus Games gear for all of Team USA to wear during the games.”

Karri went on to say how important it was to have the family and friends present to support the athletes, just as it was during their recovery.

“We bond over shared experiences and it is such a healing program, Karri continued. “I stayed in a Fisher House at Tripler Army Medical Center when Ryan was injured. It is a home away from home for the families of wounded and ill service members and is completely free of charge. It provided a safe haven while going through a very difficult time. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the Fisher House family.”

For more info about Fisher House, visit www.fisherhouse.org.

Shortly thereafter, Karri wrote, “I’m happy to report that Ryan finished the Ironman in Florida. Unbelievable.”
Interested in more? Simply read though the accounts featured online with a search for “Invictus Games 2018 Ryan Novack.”

– PN is grateful to Scott Wehrli and Ray Kinney for the reminder about the Invictus Games 2018 with a connection to our local community. Local matters.