Our country’s veterans do so much for their community and country already, but many veterans, after they leave the service, are still driven to improve the lives of their neighbors and fellow Americans. Ryan Kominakis of Valpo is one such veteran. As a member of the VFW, or Veterans of Foreign Wars, and a Union Representative at US Steel’s Gary Works, Kominakis is a pillar of his community and a paragon when it comes to giving back to his fellow man.
After graduating from Wheeler High School in 2005, Kominakis joined the Marine Corps at 21 years old. He was deployed 4 times in his 5 years of service, serving in Guantanamo Bay, the Pacific, Haiti, and serving his final tour in Afghanistan. After he left the Marine Corps in 2012, he was hired on at US Steel, where he’s been ever since.
While his military service and his drive to provide for his family is admirable, it’s his service to his community that sets his civilian life apart. Kominakis is extremely active in the local VFW Post.
“I got out of the Marine Corps in 2012, and it was within 6 months that I went down to the VFW,” said Kominakis. “I just wanted to get involved with Veterans again. The transition from the military life to the civilian life can be tough sometimes, so it’s nice to talk to some vets sometimes that have been through what you’ve been through.”
Kominakis’ experience at the VFW quickly grew from mere member to being part of the day-to-day administration of the Post.
“Since I’ve got started over there, I’ve started to get involved quite a bit,” said Kominakis. “At one point I was the Post’s Quartermaster, handling all of the finances. I was basically there every day. Now I’m the Post’s Adjutant and the Recording Secretary.”
Part of Kominakis’ many duties at the VFW is organizing and leading the Post’s Flag Day observances, leading groups of up to 150 people in properly disposing of retired American Flags. Often, He has important or notable people speak at these ceremonies, such as Indiana State Representative Ed Soliday and Former Porter County Sheriff David Lane. Kominakis is also very active in helping with the Post’s POW/MIA ceremonies, and the Memorial and Veterans’ Day observances as well.
“For me, doing little traditional stuff that we did in the Marine Corps all the time is nice to carry on,” said Kominakis. “If somebody doesn’t step up and put on those ceremonies, then nobody will do it. I don’t mind being the guy who helps honors those vets, past, present, and so on and so forth.”
While he does many things to help honor vets, such as help place flags at the graves of those who have passed, perhaps one of the most touching things Kominakis does is to be there for those vets who have no one to be with when they’re sick or terminally ill.
“I visit a lot of veterans in the hospital,” said Kominakis. “A lot of Vietnam veterans, World War II Veterans, Korean War Veterans. A lot of those guys will get sick and, while I might not know them very well, to me they’re veterans and they’re my brothers. I’ve been where they’ve been. I was in Afghanistan, I’ve got my combat action. I’ve been there, I’ve been shot at before. These guys have been through the same stuff.”
Kominakis is also involved in helping his fellow Steelworkers as a union representative.
“I very much believe in the Union,” said Kominakis. “There’s a lot of stuff that management at bigger corporations will try to get away with, and they do in non-union shops. When corporations get that big, there’s gotta be a middle man to protect the workers, and that’s what the Union is all about.”
Kominakis and his wife, Alyse, recently welcomed a newborn son into their family, which already includes son, Charlie. In his free time, Kominakis enjoys spending it with his family. Ryan Kominakis is a prime example of going above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to serving one’s community and those that have given everything in service to our country. With role models like him in the Northwest Indiana, The Region is surely a better place.