A father-son duo was honored for outstanding military service during the Sooners’ season opener against Houston on Sunday. Retired Brig. Gen. Tom Ryan and his son, Capt. Matthew Oesterle, received the first Patriot of the Game honor of the 2019 football season before a crowd of cheering fans at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
Patriot of the Game, presented by OU Extended Campus, honors military service members at home football games, as well as various men’s and women’s basketball games, baseball games and softball games.
“We’ve been season ticket holders since 2000, but even before we had season tickets it has always been their thing to go to the games together on Saturdays. To this day, they don’t just come for the game. They have to be there really early to watch the pre-game warm ups.” - Tammy Ryan
Ryan and Oesterle, along with family members, were recognized on Owen Field at the end of the first quarter.
Ryan, 55, retired in August after 33 years of military service. Most recently, he served as Chief of Staff for the Oklahoma Air National Guard. He is a veteran of Desert Storm and Enduring Freedom, and has been deployed at least a dozen times. He’s logged more than 6,100 flying hours in the C-130, including 322 combat hours, and has earned many awards and decorations, including the prestigious Legion of Merit with Oak Leaf Cluster.
Oesterle graduated from OU in May 2014 with a degree in mechanical engineering. He was part of the OU ROTC program from 2009 to 2014, attending on a full-ride Air Force ROTC scholarship. He was also part of the Flag Honor Guard at OU football games. He completed pilot training at Vance Air Force Base in 2015. He currently serves as a C-130 J air craft commander for the 39thAirlift Squadron out of Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. He has been deployed several times, including providing aid to the tsunami-stricken country of Mozambique.
Tammy Ryan, Tom’s wife and Oesterle’s mother, said her husband and son are avid OU football fans and have been attending games since they moved to Oklahoma in 1997.
“We’ve been season ticket holders since 2000, but even before we had season tickets it has always been their thing to go to the games together on Saturdays,” she said. “To this day, they don’t just come for the game. They have to be there really early to watch the pre-game warm ups.”
Over the past few years, a slew of deployments have kept the father and son from attending games together. Both have missed entire football seasons, as well as holidays with family, Tammy Ryan said. Oesterle missed the 2017 football season, and Ryan missed the 2018 season.
While not too many stations overseas carry Sooner football, the two would still find ways to watch, Tammy Ryan said.
“While deployed, both would get up in the middle of the night to try and find the games on the internet or some TV station,” she said.
Oesterle will have to rely on the internet again this year. He’ll miss most of the season, as well as the holidays, as he’s being deployed in the coming months.
Tammy Ryan said knowing that deployment will keep the family apart again this year makes this honor even more special. It was also meaningful since she and her husband also have a daughter currently attending OU.
“We are so honored to be Patriot of the Game,” Tammy said. “We are so grateful for everything OU is doing for them.”
Do you know a service member who deserves to be Patriot of the Game? Visit patriot.pacs.ou.edu and tell us why.