Before "The Real World" became TV's equivalent of a bare breast covered in booze, the show used to highlight real life issues -- think Kevin AND Julie's race war, Tami's abortion, Pedro's HIV and Elka's cemetery visit. Tonight (10 pm, MTV) the series once again puts the "Real" in its title when Brooklyn roommate Ryan gets the shock of his life.
After serving in the Army for three and a half years and being stationed in Iraq for one, Ryan thought he was done serving his country. But following President Obama's historic election, Ryan gets the phone call he'd been dreading since coming home. Watch!
Ryan took a few moments away from boot camp to talk with PopWrap as he prepares to ship out on April 15.
PopWrap: What was your first reaction to being called back?
Ryan: Wow. Disbelief. Things around me faded away and I was absorbed into the conversation. I didn't believe it at first, and then I didn't want to believe it. I really wanted my brother to be joking at that moment but he wasn't. My mind was racing so fast.
PW: What does your family think?
Ryan: I've got the greatest family in the world. Huge support. They support me in everything I do, 100%. They've done this before. They would have not liked to do this again but this is reality and this is here. We'll deal with it at hand and get through it. We've done it before, we can do it again. Did I mention they are the best?
PW: How do you feel about going back now that your date to ship out is nearing?
Ryan: It was tough to come to terms with at first. Everything happens for a reason. I've dealt with it and there's no way out of it now. I could if I truly want to, but I still have some pride in me. All of the men in the IRR (Individual Ready Reserve) who are called up still have some pride in what we did and are willing to do it again. I have another fight in me, I'll do it again. This deployment will be what I put into it so I'm going to give it my all.
PW: Do you know where you'll be stationed this time
Ryan: The destination is Iraq. Not sure of what my mission will be entirely but I'll be doing my old job. Infantry. Come what may. I'm an Active Duty IRR soldier attached to the North Carolina National Guard. It's a far different unit than I served with last time so I'm very optimistic, cautious, and ready.
PW: How long will you have to serve?
Ryan: My tour could be anywhere from 10 months, a year, or more. The Army changes at the drop of a hat. Who knows?
PW: Tonight's episode sees you guys celebrating Obama's victory, what do you think about his troop withdrawal plan?
Ryan: I'm so stoked that Obama has initiated a date for troop withdrawal from Iraq. It's about time. I'll be over there close to the date but I don't think I would like to extend to be a part of the last troops there. Then again, I love to be a part of history so who knows?
PW: Will you continue to use your music as a therapeutic tool?
Ryan: I have many outlets that I utilize that are a stress reliever for me. Obviously, I love to play stuff on the guitar. Mainly, I love to get lost in my eclectic music on my iPod. In whatever down time I get, I always put some tunes on, close my eyes, and I envision being anywhere but Iraq. It's very soothing. One does a lot of thinking and silent reflection over there in their down time.
PW: How have you changed since the last time you served?
Ryan: This time, I am not so scared. I'm not saying I'm not scared though. Infantry is infantry. The front line is the front line. Nothing is ever certain. This time I'm going to trust my instincts a lot more. The importance of working as a cohesive unit is a key for success in operations in my line of work and I will work hard to gain that with my new squad. I have more people behind me in support than just my family and I won't let them down. Knowing that millions of people have my back, I think it will be hard to feel lonely over there. I'll be thinking of the fans, my friends, and my family. Always.
PW: What message would you like to send America as you head back into the fray?
Ryan: I would like people who send me messages to stop calling me a hero. People these days use that term way too loosely. I'm not a hero, but I know a lot of them.
Tune in to "The Real World" tonight at 10pm on MTV to see how it all plays out.