Colonel Edward Ryan, an army veteran and retired firefighter, has come out as gay in his obituary to “forever rest in peace”.

According to his biography, Ryan was a retired fireman in Rensselaer, New York, and one of the owners and founders of the Albany radio station WHRL-FM.

For his role in the army, he was awarded with “The National Defense Service Medal” and “Defense of Liberty Medal” for “participation to the State following the attack on America, 11 September 2001”.

After the obituary listed his plethora of achievements, Ryan issued a statement in which he opened up about his identity and why he stayed closeted.

“I must tell you one more thing. I was Gay all my life: thru grade school, thru High School, thru College, thru Life,” he shared.

“I was in a loving and caring relationship with Paul Cavagnaro of North Greenbush. He was the love of my life. We had 25 great years together.”

“Paul died in 1994 from a medical Procedure gone wrong. I’ll be buried next to Paul,” he continued, before apologising for not “having the courage to come out as gay” sooner.

“I was afraid of being ostracized: by Family, Friends, and Co-Workers. Seeing how people like me were treated, I just could not do it. Now that my secret is known, I’ll forever Rest in Peace.”

Ryan’s statement went viral on social media, and his obituary page has been inundated with tributes commending the veteran for being a “hero in death”.

“Ryan you served our country for my freedom, I am so sorry you did not get to feel that freedom for yourself,” reads one comment. “I will think of you has a hero. You and Paul fly high, fly free.”

Another says: “You are the very definition of hero. Thank you for your service, Sir. Your life was clearly well lived on every front. May you rest in peace with Paul.”

As well as the aforementioned achievements, Ryan received a citation by the direction of the Governor of the State of New York, as well as “The Conspicuous Service Medal”.

The citation reads: “Col Ryan’s Loyalty, Diligence and Devotion to Duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Military Service and a long and distinguished Military career which reflect great credit upon himself and the State of New York.”

Additionally, Ryan was awarded the “Commanders Citation” and “Service Above and Beyond the Call” from the division of Military and Naval affairs.

Ryan was 85 when he passed, and is survived by “many nieces and nephews”: Linda Sargent, Dennis Williams, Theresa Beach, George Williams, Warren Williams, Sharon Ryan, Kelly Blue, Joseph Ryan, Mary Jane Brozowski, Judith Leto, Daniel Dominski, Michael Dominski, Cathy Stammel, and Cornelius Ryan.

R.I.P Colonel Edward Ryan.