Inspiration is the good that comes from tragic loss.
That’s the view of aspiring recording artist Daniel Rylander as he and his family mark the one-year anniversary of his brother’s death in Afghanistan.
Army 2nd Lt. David Rylander died a year ago today of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated under his vehicle in Logar province. He was 23.
The loss prompted Daniel Rylander to follow his heart and compile a CD in his brother’s memory.
“I felt very passionate and very strong that I had to do something,” Daniel said in a recent interview. “When life blows up in your face, now is the time.”
Daniel, 20, said his brother’s death inspired him to jump into his passion, music, in a big way. David also was very interested in music and sang in the choir at West Point and played bells at the U.S. Military Academy.
After David was killed, Daniel decided not to go back to school but rather sought to record a CD when not working at Becker’s Bake Shop in Cleveland.
He has been recording Strawberry Skyline for several months with the assistance of Wes McCraw at McCraw’s Creekside Audio studio in Norton and hopes to complete it in a few months.
The cut he sang at his brother’s funeral, A Friend and A Brother, Be Thou at Peace, will be put up for sale on iTunes on today’s anniversary of David’s death. A video of the song will be uploaded to YouTube today as well.
“This has been a dream of mine forever. Nobody is promised tomorrow,” Daniel Rylander said. “I am going to chase my dreams now ... Losing my brother has taught me that family is everything.”
Daniel Rylander’s death has been remembered in other ways near and far from his hometown of Stow.
Over last weekend, his family — parents Jackie and John and siblings Daniel, Sarah and Stephen — attended a Boy Scout Camporee held in David’s memory on the West Point campus in New York.
“We ask that you keep him and his family in your prayers during your time at the Camporee, as many of the outstanding programs we currently run throughout the weekend are a product of his dedication and inspiration,” wrote Patrick Mitchell, a West Point cadet and commander of the Scoutmasters’ Council that organized the event. About 5,500 scouts and 250 West Point cadets attended.
Rylander was an Eagle Scout with Hudson Troop 777 and assigned to the Army’s 10th Mountain Division out of Fort Drum, N.Y. He is one of 93 former West Point cadets killed in combat since Sept. 11, 2001.
An avid reader and swimmer, Rylander also is being remembered by the Stow-Munroe Falls Public Library and the Cuyahoga Falls Riverfront YMCA Tigersharks swim team.
He was a volunteer at the library and spent countless hours studying there.
“We saw him here all the time,” library spokeswoman Ann Malthaner said.
A plaque bearing his name was placed in the library’s foyer on Veterans Day.
When the Tigersharks gathered for their annual awards ceremony last month, coach Dale Craddock presented the first David Rylander Award to Roberts Middle School student Marissa Kassinger.
“He was very team-oriented, and he was the one who encouraged all of the teammates to continue to work at practice and do well,” Craddock said.
Rylander swam with the Tigersharks during his high school years while being home schooled.
“He was always cheering,” Craddock recalled.
A month before his death, Rylander reconnected with his swim coach through Facebook, writing, “I don’t know if you remember me ...”
“Obviously, I did remember him,” Craddock said. “I’ve been doing this for 20 years, and he was one I remembered.”
At Camp Manatoc, a Boy Scout camp in Boston Township, the Great Trail Council is naming a patio next to the swimming pool after Rylander.
His former troop sold bricks for the patio and raised $10,000. An anonymous donor gave another $10,000 toward construction. It will be dedicated June 7.
Troop 777 Scoutmaster Steven York said Rylander’s example is one that will have meaning to young scouts and others for generations. The troop also attended the camp at West Point.
“He is a young man who started out as an ordinary person and did some very good things, and as an officer from West Point became an exemplary role model and someone to be looked up to and admired,” York said of Rylander.
Great Trail Executive Mike Jones said Rylander was a regular camper at Manatoc every summer.
He called the patio, along with a boulder with a commemorative plaque, a fitting tribute to Rylander.
“He was an Eagle Scout, a second lieutenant from West Point,” Jones said. “He walked these trails ... He grew up to serve his country and died for his country.”
Jackie Rylander said the wide support from the community has overwhelmed the family.
“I am so thankful and grateful,” she said. “What he believed in his faith is coming true ... People remember he was an upright person and he loved the Lord.”
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.