Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Why I March on Vets Day: Rancich

Teammates -- Last Wednesday, Veterans Day, Tom Rancich gave the speech at the Martha's Vineyard ceremony, on what he described as "a blustery day for a sad little parade". Take his words to heart. Alden Mills

"Good morning—thank you for having me here today. You are about to find out about a quirk of mine---perhaps it is because I was an English Major---or perhaps it is because I have spent too much time underwater---but I believe in semantics—the definition of words. So though I will remember, as I frequently do, my fallen comrades; Neil, Brian, Woody, Jeff, Voight and so many others who touched my life--- guarded it---they are not why I march today for this is not Memorial Day. And though I will always be in awe of the audacity and courage of our Founding Fathers, they are not why I march today because this is not July 4th. This is Veterans Day---a day set aside for those who served, survived and went on to live civilian lives. I believe that veterans bear a unique set of burdens---not heavier or the heaviest---but unique.

Sometimes the burden is sorta silly---standing in a hotel lobby having the clerk tell you “Yes, we have a military discount but the Triple A one is much better”. Sometimes the burden is surreal---bearing the rigors of combat and then ninety-six hours later standing in an opulent society that does not seem to know it is at war---in two countries---that somewhere a nineteen year old is fighting for his or her life. Sometimes it is tragic—--many laying awake at night wondering if there was something they could have done differently and their buddy or teammate would be alive. And sometimes coming to the horrible conclusion that you could have, and getting to live with that forever.

Sometimes it is just day to day challenges---trying to figure out how to live for the next 30-40 years knowing that nothing will ever be as important or as exciting as the last mission; or worse, trying to figure out how to live the next 30-40 years without arms or legs---or sight—or to live with the murmurs as people stare at your burns as you try to forget your disfigurement.

Sometimes it is sublime---Halloween I was at the Offshore Ale house and a girl came in wearing an American flag that she had cut a hole in so she could wear it like a smock---a collection jar in her hand with the words “You Lie” on its face; laughing—happy—protected. I was torn---part of me wanted to tear it off of her and give it a respectful end---part of me wanted to tell her about my friends that came home--- likewise draped in the flag---and how I felt about seeing her desecrate them---but I knew I wouldn’t do anything other than enforce her fantasy. In the end I just walked out—anything I did would have ended badly and likely I would bear the blame.

I am proud to be a veteran and I am proud of my fellow veterans. You can wrap yourself in the warm knowledge that the country is better…safer… for your service. You may sleep well at night, knowing that your slumber is guarded by people trained by the best…trained by you---and that they are living up to your standard of excellence.

You should revel in the honor that is given you—you answered your country’s call---you went into harm’s way---you succeeded in your mission and you did not falter. On the dark night when a foul wind rose---you did not shutter your house—but rather you opened your door and strode into the darkness to meet the challenge--- and wrest the night.

That is why I march today---thank you for your service."

Lieutenant Commander Thomas Rancich, U.S. Navy (retired)


Alden Mills said...

Joe, taking the liberty of reprinting your tweet on Tom Rancich's Veterans Day post --

JoeGunter: @aldenmills Unbelievably inspiring words by Rancich - tell him there are thousands like me, w/o adequate words to convey thanks to y'all.

Joe G. said...

He is the man. You are too!