U.S. Air Force Maj. Ryan Mudry, the valedictorian for the Class of 2005 at Father Ryan High School, died from injuries he suffered in a plane crash near Comstock, Texas. He was 34 years old.
Maj. Mudry was flying his private plane, a Luscombe 8F, alone at the time of the crash. The plane’s wreckage was found on July 18 by a ranch owner near Comstock. The cause of the crash is under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.
Funeral services were held on Friday, July 30, at Barrancas National Cemetery in Pensacola, Florida.
Maj. Mudry was born on Feb. 20, 1987, in Nashville. At the age of 9, he began learning to fly with Lt. Col. (Ret.) Ken Poley, an F-89 and F-102 pilot whom he considered a mentor and personal hero. After graduating from Holy Rosary Academy, he attended Father Ryan High School, where he scored a perfect score on the SAT and was named the class valedictorian.
After graduating from Father Ryan, Maj. Mudry moved on to the U.S. Air Force Academy, having won a congressional appointment from Sen. Lamar Alexander and U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper.
While at the Academy, Maj. Mudry double majored, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and Physics along with his commission. He was published five times as a cadet on topics ranging from laser diffraction to nuclear decay and spectrum analysis. As a junior in 2008, he was recognized at the Rocky Mountain Bioengineering Symposium for his research into an implant device for glaucoma treatment. Involved in research at the Academy’s Life Sciences Research Center, he was the first undergraduate ever to receive the Program Chairman’s Award for Excellence.
Upon completing Joint Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training at Vance AFB, Oklahoma, in 2011, Maj. Mudry was assigned as an AC-130U gunship pilot with the 4th Special Operations Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Florida. During his time with the 4th SOS, Maj. Mudry served in various squadron roles, including Chief of Mobility for Air Force Special Operations Command’s largest flying squadron. While with the 4th, he also completed his master’s in mathematics at the University of West Florida in 2015.
Maj. Mudry served four combat flying deployments in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Freedom’s Sentinel, and once as Joint Operations Center Chief, Combined Joint Special Operations Air Component, Afghanistan. He logged more than 2,000 flight hours, including 596 combat hours in the AC-130U.
At the time of his death, Maj. Mudry was serving as Director of Operations for the 47th Operations Support Squadron at Laughlin AFB near Del Rio, Texas. He oversaw 114 military personnel and 37 civilian contractors and was responsible for the safe flight of 209 aircraft and more than 700 flyers.
Maj. Mudry was named the 47th Flying Training Wing’s Field Grade Officer of the Year months earlier and was a T-38 Instructor Pilot.
During his four years at Father Ryan, Maj. Mudry received a host of academic awards, became an accomplished violinist, was a member of the cross country and track teams, tutored high school and college students in math and science, and participated in a program in which pilots donate their time and fuel to provide free airplane rides for children.
His involvement in the Father Ryan Science Academy led to an afterschool job as a research intern at the Vanderbilt University Pharmacology Department, and he designed the department’s web page and served as its Webmaster.
Becoming a pilot was a lifetime dream, he told the Tennessee Register before his high school graduation. “It’s kind of an interesting feeling knowing you’re up there in a big open space, pretty much on your own,” he said.
He recalled his first visit to the Air Force Academy. “It was kind of like walking around in a dream,” he said. “It was something I always wanted, and to be that close to it was rather powerful.”
Preparing for his high school graduation, Maj. Mudry recalled his time at Father Ryan fondly. “It’s been a good four years,” he said. “I’ve known a lot of good people there and I’ve made a lot of good friends that I’ll stick with and they’ll stick with me.
“I’m a changed person as a result of Father Ryan,” he added. “When I went there, I was short and shy. I’m definitely not that anymore,” he said with a laugh. “Maybe I’m still short.”
Maj. Mudry is survived by his parents, John and Karen, and his wife, Susan.