“O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.” – These words have special meaning for Ron Shroyer, a retired and decorated US Navy Command Master Chief.
A former lead singer with the US Navy Band, Ron has sung “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Naval ceremonies at the US Capitol and across the Mediterranean Sea. On game day his strong, resonating voice has filled the Pittsburgh Steelers and San Diego Chargers football stadiums and the hearts of fans. And when he has had to sing our National Anthem at military services, the words have really hit home.
“When I was 20 years old, I sang at the Memorial Service of my friend and squadron member, Commander James Stam. He was a RA5C pilot and I was part of his flight deck crew on board the USS Constellation in Vietnam. The two-seater, Vigilante supersonic aircraft he flew on our combat mission over Hanoi was shot down. It was just before Memorial Day in 1968.
We shared a lot together. When you leave to serve in the military, the people you work with become like family. So when you lose someone, it’s hard.
On Memorial Day I think of James and I remember the fallen. All of the people we lost – the Prisoners of War and those Missing in Action. These people left home to serve and would never return to their families again,“ he remarked.
Even with the sacrifices that come with being in the US military, Ron said he would do it all over again. And although he retired from active duty after 31 years of service, he continues to serve his country as a counselor with the US Department of Veterans Affairs.
It’s something, it seems, he was born to do. His birthday is May 30th, the original date Memorial Day was observed.
“When I was 5 years old, I spent all my time playing with airplanes and my favorite toy was the WWII Navy Bearcat. I grew up watching John Wayne movies, including “In Harm’s Way” and the WWI biographical film, “Sergeant York”.
There was nobody that loved this country more than John Wayne. He always showed great respect for the military. And in ‘Sergeant York’, it was how (the title character) was portrayed. He loved this country and his mother. It’s the way America was and the way America should be,” he commented.
Hollywood was literally on board in supporting the US military.
“I’ll never forget the day John Wayne, Bob Hope, and Ann Margaret landed by helicopter on the deck of the USS Constellation to do shows for our men. It was great to see them. A helicopter would go into the jungle and bring the troops out to watch the shows,” he said.
Ron is sharing this Memorial Day weekend with his 10 year old grandson, Ethan.Today, they were at the Naval Air Station Oceana golf course in Virginia Beach, VA. When they arrived on the course, Ron and Ethan were paired to play with Jack, an Iraq war veteran and amputee, who lost his leg to an IED.
“It was such an honor to meet him and to spend time with him. He had a positive attitude and was showing Ethan some golfing techniques,” he said.
Tomorrow, the grandfather and grandson will visit Yorktown Battlefield in Virginia. The US Army, Navy, and Marines will be there and dressed in Revolutionary War uniform.
Ron remarked, “The brave lost their lives so we could have the freedom we have. That’s something we need to pass on to the next generation and something we can never forget.”