Since the 2022 Russian invasion, Ukraine’s veteran population has increased from roughly 500,000 to over 1.2 million and counting, yet the country’s ability to support its servicemembers has declined due to the war’s impact on the economy and infrastructure. Two…
From Active-Duty Soldier to Green to Gold Scholar, Ryan Austin Yon ’23 Continues to Inspire
While stationed at the Army’s 10th Mountain Division in Fort Drum, New York, Ryan Austin Yon set a goal to attend Syracuse University under the Green to Gold Scholarship Program. The program provides eligible, active-duty enlisted soldiers an opportunity to complete their first bachelor’s degree or first master’s degree and earn a commission as an Army officer. Yon succeeded in winning the scholarship and began at the University in 2019. He is a double major, studying policy studies in the Maxwell School and data analytics in the School of Information Studies, while simultaneously serving as a cadet in the Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC).
Growing up in Clemson, South Carolina, Yon always knew he wanted to branch out. After reading “Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul” by John Eldredge, Yon was inspired to join the U.S. Army in 2017. “I then attended the Army dive school and just fell in love with the organization and continued to challenge myself,” he says.
Yon’s Army duty brought him to Fort Drum, where he served in the 548th Division Sustainment Support Battalion. From vehicle mechanic to public affairs officer to assisting in natural disasters, Yon fulfilled many roles—fixing and revamping gear to helping provide aid after Hurricane Florence and the California wildfires.
Yon is taking full advantage of his time at the University by participating in various sports, clubs and organizations. He has been on the water polo team, the cheer team, served in the Peer Advisors for Veteran Education program, was a teaching assistant for the python programming course in the School of Information Studies, interned as a research consultant with Orange Success, was a student veteran representative for Undergraduates for Better Education, and was a volunteer at the local Boys and Girls Club.
Most recently, Yon has taken on a larger role as an assistant with the Veteran Career Services department, where he helps incoming and current student veterans and military-connected students take advantage of resources on campus. “My favorite part of the job is meeting them and helping them succeed by showing them the resources available and how wonderful this University is by aiming everything they do to serve veterans,” says Yon. “I want to make sure they’re doing something impactful when they leave here.” Additionally, he is a location coordinator for Wreaths Across America and a student with FourBlock.
Upon graduating, Yon plans to become a cyber operations officer with the U.S. Army National Guard and pursue a career in technology consulting. “I want to go into the National Guard because I can still help veterans transition to civilian life and be successful, while having a full-time career and continuing to be a mentor for FourBlock,” Yon says.
Helping others came to fruition for Yon when he joined the Army, specifically at Fort Drum. He says when he spent a year competing for the Green to Gold scholarship, many of his fellow soldiers felt they couldn’t apply because they didn’t have the time commitment to do so. Once Yon was awarded the scholarship, he said the climate of his unit changed completely. “I had people coming up to me afterwards and told me I inspired them to apply, and now I have three friends who completed their packets,” he added. Yon hopes to continue encouraging people to meet their true potential by growing as leaders and strengthening their organizations, whether it be in the military or civilian world.
Yon encourages other service members to apply for the Green to Gold scholarship so they can experience what he has, and to do so at Syracuse University. “The University’s resources and outreach are second to none,” he says. “The history here is something to be a part of. They helped implement the G.I. Bill, and they have the longest consecutively running ROTC program in the nation, and the best, I believe.”