Volume LIIIMay 2006Number 2

Masons Helping Masons - One Member's Story
How a Natural Disaster and a Shared Desire to Help those in Need Brought Two Brethren Together.

Sgt. Bro. Ryan Nyswaner

It was 100° in the shade on that hot September afternoon in Welsh, La., and Sgt. Ryan Nyswaner had just about enough. After spending two weeks outside of New Orleans, his Pennsylvania Army National Guard unit was moved six hours west to assist in the aftermath of Hurricane Rita.

Running a traffic point in an effort to bring some order to the area, Sgt. Nyswaner soon tired of redirecting people who kept pulling in the wrong way. He jumped in front of one car, commanding the driver to turn around, when the man inside rolled down his window to say, "Sergeant, I really don't need anything; I just stopped by to offer you some good Louisiana coffee on behalf of Masonic Lodge No. 232."

Well, that broke the ice, and soon the two Brethren were shaking hands and making plans for Bro. Ryan to visit Bro. Greg Lyons, his new-found friend and Brother, at the next stated meeting of Welsh Lodge No. 232.

Soon after, while distributing food at a local grocery store, the Brethren met up again. Bro. Greg offered Bro. Ryan's unit the use of his father's air strip as a food distribution site for the local community. He also asked Bro. Ryan if he still was interested in coming to Lodge, to which he responded, "I'd love to!"

Fortunately, Bro. Ryan's Commander was understanding of his desire to attend Lodge and agreed to let him go. But the Lodge had even bigger plans: they invited the entire troop for dinner, of which about half were able to go. To their surprise, the Lodge cooked up a homemade jambalaya meal - a far cry from the MREs that had become their staple. This hospitality caused many of the men in his troop to take an interest and ask questions about Freemasonry.

Bro. Ryan's next concern was that he did not have a suit to wear for the meeting, to which Bro. Greg responded, "So what?" In Louisiana, Brethren come as they are, Bro. Ryan said, and they also open their Lodge differently. So, dressed in his camouflage, Bro. Ryan, along with Bro. and Sgt. Brian O'Donnell, a fellow guardsman and Senior Warden of Ryan's hometown lodge, Orrstown Lodge No. 262, joined their Louisiana Brethren for a taste of home away from home.

To Bro. Ryan, home is in Fairfield, Pa., where he lives with his wife, Amy, a registered nurse who manages research projects for the Army. He was Raised a Mason in November 2004 at the age of 30 and is "on the fast track" as Junior Warden of Orrstown Lodge No. 262. He had intended to join the fraternity since he was 21, having seen his father's commitment to his Lodge in Bealsville, Pa., and to the Scottish Rite, but his job and military commitments took him in different directions. But when, by chance, he was assigned to a room with Bro. O'Donnell, (their names fit together alphabetically) he asked for a petition and, between deployments, went through the degrees. He is so glad he did.

"When I met Greg (in Louisiana), there was an instant connection, just like when I meet any Mason - I know I've found someone I can put my trust in and someone who I can rely on," Bro. Ryan said. "I've experienced the brotherhood of union members and am part of the brotherhood within the Army, but there's nothing like the Brotherhood of Freemasons."

Brothers Ryan and Greg continue to keep in touch via e-mail. In fact, knowing that Bro. Greg is a Masonic history buff, Bro. Ryan recently sent him the book, "Famous Freemasons at Gettysburg" (which is 10 miles from his home).

Members of Welsh Lodge No. 232 welcome members of the Higher Headquarters Troop with fellowship and hospitality.

One of the best parts of his service in the South came upon Bro. Ryan's return home, when six men from his unit petitioned his Lodge: Brothers Tim Berklite, Mike Brinley, Jim Flannery, Ronald Hopkins, Dennis Layton and Shawn Spidell.

Now they, too, are Masons Helping Masons.

We want to hear how our Brethren are going out of their way to exemplify the true spirit of Freemasonry. If you have any stories to share, please forward them to your District Deputy Grand Master, and you may read about them in future issues of The Pennsylvania Freemason!

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