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Hometown Hero: Northeast Wisconsin Veteran of the Year earns award through advocacy for other vets

Hometown Heroes

Appleton, Wis. (WFRV) – He says it’s part of his job, but for Ryan Lonergan, veterans advocacy isn’t really work- It’s his life.

A veteran himself, Lonergan enlisted with the U.S. Army National Guard in 2006.

“College was kind of out of the question coming from a single-parent household. My mom raised two boys by herself, seven years in age difference between me and my brother and I was like, ‘I have to do something for myself,'” said Lonergan.

This launched a career of six years with the military, but fifteen years dedicated to helping other veterans.

But for Lonergan, that path started on a much darker road.

“Fast forward to Christmas Eve of 2012, I had broken up with my fiancé, and I was technically homeless in Green Bay. I was sitting in the parking lot at Lambeau Field or staring at it, one of the two, and that’s where I was like, ‘I’m going to just kill myself.’ Luckily, two of my friends answered their phones that night,” he said.

That’s when Lonergan says he stopped trying to do everything on his own; He learned to ask for help, and give help.

“I just started kind of figuring things out with networking and collaborating. I wanted something better for my life, I wanted to be a part of something bigger,” Lonergan said.

All of this spawned The Fragout Podcast, a weekly episode that talks about veterans advocacy issues, but also gives each guest a platform for their voice.

“I wanted to showcase real information, real stories, how to actually help veterans and families and service members with whatever situation they’re in. Stories are healing, people say all the time that there’s a gap in transition but I think what it is is that there’s a gap because we aren’t really talking about what’s effecting us,” said Lonergan.

Veterans to politicians, homelessness to job recruiting, Lonergan and The Fragout Podcast share stories, but with a bigger goal in mind.

“Nothing I do is about money because anybody can make money, but not anybody can make history. If we’re working together, we want everyone to win, and we’re leaving a legacy, that’s leaving a solid foundation,” said Lonergan.

“We’re not doing just surface level things for veterans in our community. We have to dig deeper, we have to think outside the box, we have to continue to help and share stories,” he said.

Have someone you’d like to nominate for Hometown Hero? Let us know below!

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