As heartbreaking news continues to surface about the lives and families involved in Sunday’s Texas church massacre, we’re starting to learn more about the 26 victims who lost their lives to the evil acts of a shooter that fateful morning.
One brave little boy who is recovering this week is Ryland Ward.
The 5-year-old was reportedly shot five times: once in the elbow, twice in the stomach and twice in the leg, according to a GoFundMe campaign created on the little boy’s behalf.
Ryland’s injuries are extensive, and the trauma of Sunday’s shooting is something that no human being should ever have to carry with them—much less a five-year-old.
Still, he made it out alive. And it’s all because of the bravery and sacrifice of Ryland’s step-mom, Joann Ward.
When gunman, Devin Kelley opened fire on the Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church, Joann reportedly pushed her 9-year-old daughter, Rihanna Garza, to the floor before throwing her body on top of three of her younger children to protect them from the spewing bullets.
Rihanna recounted her mom’s bravery to family friend Vonda Greek Smith, who shared the conversation on Facebook.
“I didn’t get shot because I was hiding and momma covered Emily, Ryland and Brooke,” the little girl said.
Joann lost her life along her daughters Emily and Brooke. But Rihanna made it out without a scratch. She’s praying for her step-brother’s recovery.
Ryland’s uncle Michael Ward told The New York Daily News that he carried his nephew out of the church following the attack, where a helicopter rushed him to the hospital.
According to the outlet, he’d found the child “clinging to a church pew” after the shooting.
Despite his injuries, Ryland was believed to be stable as of Tuesday morning. A six-hour surgery “fixed his arm,” restored blood-flow, put pins in his hip, and inserted a colostomy bag until they can repair his intestines.
Though the road ahead will not be easy, he’s alive today because of Joann’s selflessness. Nothing compares to a mother’s love.
Referencing John 15:13, Vonda took to Facebook on Tuesday to praise her friend’s heroism.
“I love you Joann Ward… you died giving your own life for your babies as you shielded them from that evil beast… you died being exactly like the one you always said you wanted to be like — your Lord & Savior, Jesus… you did it!!” she wrote. “You finished the race well, honey!… I always KNEW you would!”
Vonda’s words speak volumes to the woman and mother that Joann Ward was. She will be terribly missed.
Please join us in praying for Ryland and the Ward family. If you feel led to give, you can visit the GoFundMe page which has been designated for Ryland’s medical bills and updates.