A Lesson in Valor…Thank You Ron.
This Veterans Day we honor and thank all of America’s service men and women.
However, there is one in particular that has been very important to us that we want to thank, as well as share his story as an example of strength, leadership and what can be achieved in life.
Please take a few minutes and read through this journal entry, it may inspire you to dig a little deeper and be a little stronger.
Brief background: Ron Ray has been my business partner and close friend for two decades. He taught me a lot about humility and leadership. I make it a point to listen closely when he speaks.
Ron was born on Pearl Harbor Day, December 7, 1941. A date with destiny from the start.
There are numerous moments in Ron’s life where he demonstrated his tremendous strength of character and loyalty to his family, colleagues, friends and his soldiers. However, everything he learned and trained for in his first 25 years came together this one day.
June 19, 1966, Ia Drang Valley, Vietnam. The snapshot of a life changing day: A squad sent out to destroy a hostile machine gun nest became pinned down, Ron stormed the emplacement himself, killing the four gunners with his grenades and shotgun. He then rescued a medic and a wounded man who had come under intense fire by silencing the hostile position with a grenade. As an NVA grenade landed near two of his soldiers, Ron dove in front of the grenade shielding his men with his body, suffering shrapnel wounds to his legs and feet. He then was shot in the legs by enemy machine gun fire. He had one grenade left, which he used to destroy the machine gun nest. Paralyzed he directed his troops to leave him so he could provide them cover. One soldier, Sergeant Berdine, refused to leave him, hoisted him over his shoulders and carried him out.
Read the full Medal of Honor citation here (http://www.cmohs.org/recipient-detail/3399/ray-ronald-eric.php).
Take a few minutes to read a few other citations from Medal of Honor recipients. It’s both humbling and a source of great pride for all Americans.
Men and women like that are rare, and are the backbone that made our nation great. As a nation, so many have sacrificed deeply. And for each, we are grateful.
But Ron’s story is much deeper.
Born in Cordele, Georgia, Ron was raised by his mom: Elizabeth Ray. Hers is as much a story of courage in its own right. In addition to Ron, she had 4 other sons and 2 daughters. To make ends meet, the family worked as migrants moving across farms in rural Georgia, Florida, Indiana and Michigan: with Elizabeth keeping her sons and daughters in tow, by her side, she kept her family together, and provided.
Ron would often cite that his Mom was his hero.
I can certainly understand why, and how difficult it must have been for her. She never complained, just focused on building the values and character of her children.
Think of the tremendous challenges Mrs. Ray endured. She was relentless in raising them the right way…without all of the materiality that we think we need in society today. And, the tremendous moment of pride from raising her children on the farms in rural Georgia to standing with her son, in the White House, receiving our nation’s highest honor.
I sometimes need to remind myself of his incredible journey. Times were tough, but they never thought of it in those terms.
Ron joined the military at 18 and took the hard road.
Following his initial three-year term of service, Ron volunteered for Special Forces training and was assigned to the Special Forces Training Group (Airborne). He did his Special Forces training at Fort Bragg, and other locations. He also attended Officer Candidate School at Fort Bragg, completed Ranger School and was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment.
It was in June 1966, where he was assigned to the 3rd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, as a platoon leader in the Ia Drang Valley. He had only been in Vietnam a few weeks.
After 6 months in the hospital, he returned to the 1st Special Forces Training Group as the Alpha Company commander.
He continued this path of service to our country and further distinguished himself with his selection to the prestigious White House Fellows program, President of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, served as Assistant Secretary at the Department of Veterans Affairs and is a damn good man. Continually giving back and setting the bar high on what it means to not only be a man, but a patriot and champion of veterans. There has rarely been a day where his deep concern and passion for veterans, our war fighters and the people that support them hasn’t come through.
Ron and I have worked together since 1989, and here’s what I’ve learned:
Put Others First: It’s about people. Your people. Whether it is your troops, your family, your friends, your employees…their needs are ahead of yours. Always.
Loyalty: The phrase is so often used but how many would truly do it, “I’d take a bullet for him/her.” Well, this man did that and more. Ron lives his life with a keen sense of loyalty and dedication to his people. There is not a moment, no matter what, that I wouldn’t hesitate to reach out to Ron…and he would always be there. Some might say “Loyal to a fault.” I’d say, learn a lesson about true loyalty from this man.
Passion and Respect: If Ron jumps in, it’s with passion and a deep sense of “doing it right”. That applies to that fateful day in 1966, to how he has led and supported efforts to make life easier for our veterans, to his passion for customers and employees as CEO Ray Group International, to the countless moments that led Kennedy Consulting naming him Consultant of the Year in 2013.
NBC Medal of Honor Interview: I’d encourage you to take a few minutes, link through to this interview by NBC on Ron. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ceqt65np7nM)
It’s a true lesson in character building, leadership and dedication to our country.
In honor of Ron’s tremendous service to our country, all of our service men and women, and our veterans we are donating $10,000 to the TAPS Good Grief Camp, which provides bereavement support for children and families that have lost a loved one in military service. (www.taps.org)
If you are considering a charitable contribution this year, please give Bonnie Carroll and the TAPS organization very serious consideration. Both Ron and I have given to Bonnie and the TAPS organization for years.
As a post-script: Ron's awards and decorations include the Medal of Honor, Silver Star Medal, Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal (Vietnamese); Combat Infantryman Badge, Master Parachutist Badge and the Ranger Tab.
Thank you Ron…for everything you’ve done for our country and the impact you’ve had on me and so many others.