Family, friends and fellow veterans will render a final salute Saturday to retired Army Command Sgt. Maj. William “Bill” Ryan, remembered as an outstanding soldier, patriot and mentor.
Ryan, a World War II veteran of D-Day and Battle of the Bulge, died suddenly Feb. 23. He was 90.
“It’s a final salute, but the memories will last,” said Ron Ryan, a friend and fellow veteran. “He was quite an outstanding man.”
Bill Ryan’s family has spoken with many of his friends over the past few days from across the United States and Europe.
“He was a wonderful father,” said his daughter Corrine Button. “He gave us a great life.”
Button said her father quickly made friends.
“There are so many young men that he mentored,” she said.
Bill Ryan returned to France in June for the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the ambitious military action to liberate Europe from the grip of the Nazis. He had been part of the 160,000 Allied troops that waded ashore on June 6, 1944.
Ryan visited France, Belgium and Luxemburg, countries where he was befriended by many. Friends said a small town in France near the beach where he landed on D-Day has a street, Rue Ryan, named after him.
On D-Day, Ryan’s boat was hit by artillery fire before it landed, leaving Ryan, who served in the 16th Infantry Regiment, unconscious in the water. Someone pulled him ashore, where he lay wounded on the beach for about 14 hours.
Ryan had told FLORIDA TODAY that on Omaha Beach, scene of some of the bloodiest fighting, he saw lots of violence and death as he drifted in and out of consciousness.
“He was bigger than life and had wonderful stories about his experiences,” said retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Bill Welser, president of Space Coast Honor Flight.
Maj. Moses Scheinfeld, who served in the Army before joining the California National Guard, is part of the 16th Infantry Regiment Association as Ryan was. The men became friends about 11 years ago.
“He became a mentor,” Scheinfeld said. “He was a great hero.”
Scheinfeld, 49, who lives in Los Angeles, said he spoke to Ryan around the first of each month because they were friends and he respected his opinions and learned a lot from him.
“He was a gentleman of the first order,” he said. “He was a patriot and a national treasure.”
John Gaynor, a retired Army colonel, traveled with Ryan to Normandy in June.
“Bill was a good friend of mine and we went back to World War II,” Gaynor said. “A lot of people knew him in France, Belgium and Luxemburg. He was just a great man. He was always pleasant to everyone.”