I’ve been writing about Ranger 12 for several years. Some posts drew more views than others. Here are two: Bangles On The Radio, Reagan In The White House, Memorial Services Back Home & I Stopped At The Spot Bar For A Drink With My Friends Pat & Craig.
Before I do anything else, I must apologize to the Rudolf family for hosing up their name all of these years. Yup. The author can’t spell.
This year, on a Veterans Day that looks to be cold and snowy in my home town, I am pleased to report that there is finally a permanent marker for my friend Craig Rudolf in Texas, at the Coastal Bend State Veterans Cemetery. Craig’s younger sister reached out to me after discovering those blog posts, and we have corresponded a bit. It was nice to be able to tell her about her brother – she was not aware of what a great guy he was to his peers, and how important his missions were to national security. Perhaps most importantly, I was able to clear up the issue of whether he was remembered. He is. The fact that hundreds of people have reacted to the Facebook post, and thousands have watched the video, is testimony to that fact.
Craig was lost at sea, along with his fellow crew members, when Ranger 12, a Navy EA-3B, crashed on the deck of the U.S.S. Nimitz following a mission, and slid off the edge and into the deep. No bodies were ever recovered. The ceremony is directly below. Please watch, and then hop to the next segment for some comments I want to share with you all. (I apologize that this video may be unavailable unless you are logged in to Facebook. The video was posted as part of his sister’s Facebook account, and because of that, it’s the only place it exists. Facebook does not easily allow you to export it. If you’re already on Facebook, please hit the like button on the post for this blog, and then hit the share button to open it up to your friends. Liking the author page on the right side of this page also helps me justify my blog to the I.R.S. every spring!)
Posted by Jamie Gordon N Familia on Monday, October 30, 2017
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What does all of this mean? It means that 30 years after his death, Craig Rudolf, Cryptologic Technician Interpretive Third Class, NAC (Naval Aircrew) (Arabic Linguist) and the rest of that crew will never grow old. They will be remembered by all of us that knew them as young men. Men who put it all on the line when they took the oath of office. It also means that 30 years later, thousands of views of this service have taken place on Facebook. Veterans who never met any of the crew of Ranger 12 are brothers and sisters through their service. That is what this Veterans Day means to me: shared sacrifice.
Think for a moment about the fact that five thousand people took a half-hour to remember a man whom they’d never met, but who left us all too soon. And they mourned the loss as though they’d sat side-by-side with him through typhoons, rocketed off the deck of an aircraft carrier in the dark with their knees touching, stomped their feet (and traded lies) while trying to keep from losing toes to frostbite in the Fulda Gap on a dark and snowy January night, carried 110 pounds of armor, weapons, and radios out of some remote base in Afghanistan so they could rescue the crew of an MRAP hit with an IED, or hacked their way through the jungles of Vietnam right behind him.
You see, it’s a bond that only a select few truly understand. We may fight and squabble between the services, but behind it all we’d die for each other. And sometimes some of us did just that – or offered ourselves up so that others might live. A large number of my comrades have wounds – physical and mental – that impact their lives every day. They were there when Uncle Sam called them and cashed the check they’d written. The check that was made out in the amount of their lives. Some got change back – others closed out their accounts. All of them, from the supply clerk that never got past the Des Moines Army National Guard Armory, to the crew of Ranger 12, were willing to go when called. All deserve our respect.
Decades later, the bonds are still firm and resilient. It doesn’t matter if you served seventy-five years ago and fought Hitler, or just got back from fighting ISIS – you’re my brother and sister by dint of that service. And our friends, who never grew old, are here among us in spirit.
Today, don’t just thank someone for their service (we appreciate it, please don’t misunderstand). Instead, take a moment to reflect on what these people actually promised to do: die for you if need be. I think we’ll close this out with Toby Keith’s American Soldier. It seems to put a perfect touch on the day.
Oh, and since this post will already be up on that day most sacred to the United States Marines: Happy Birthday to you, and I am glad to have served alongside you. Semper Fi.
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