16 Years Later They Were Finally Reunited
Ever since he was a little kid, Rob Murafsky, from Metuchen, New Jersey wanted to join the Army as an infantryman and did so right out of high school in 2002. Richard Ranno grew up in New England and was also an Army infantryman who joined a year later in 2003.
Military Buddies, Rob and Richard, served together in Alpha Company, 1st Armored Division in Baumholder, Germany. They would hang out all the time in their off time and travel around Germany when off duty. This duo had many great times together and made lasting memories.
Military Buddies Both Deployed to Iraq
Corporal Team Leader Ranno and Specialist Murafsky were deployed to Iraq in January 2006. Rob was a squad automatic weapon (SAW) gunner and Richard was a rifleman and driver. These military buddies were now on different schedules and with less free time, however, they would still hang out, watch movies, go to the gym, and just talk whenever they could.
In August 2006, Richard was deployed into a known, active, and hostile environment in the city of Hīt, Iraq. His squad was on a three-day SKT (Small Kill Team) mission in Hīt, primarily focused on providing surveillance to a dangerous area where combatants were placing anti-tank mines and organizing other small arms attacks. Richard and a small group of soldiers were positioned inside a second story of a building watching & waiting.
Attacks against the American-led forces in this area of Iraq were at an all-time high, and nothing could be worse than what Richard was about to see and experience.
A Chaotic and Unimaginable Scene
On the third day, while on observation in that second-story building, a patrol of Abrams tanks rolled into the area. One of the tanks was hit by an anti-tank mine destroying it and killing the driver and severely hurting the crew.
Frenzied Iraqi locals grabbed the severed arm of the dead American soldier and start dancing in the street. Hundreds of locals converged on the area, partying and rejoicing that they had killed US troops.
“We wanted desperately to leave our hiding place and rescue the bodies of the US soldiers who had died,” Richard remembers. “We were told to STAY in POSITION and OBSERVE.” As the crowd grew more restless, they started to recover parts of the Abrams tank. At that time, it was just a vast mob, and we watched from the second story directly above them.”
Eventually, a Quick Reaction Force (QRF), arrived and Rob and other soldiers dismounted the vehicles. They immediately came under fire from all sides.
Corporal Richards’s unit inside the building was still told to hold its position. The crowd dispersed, taking the body parts of the fallen with them. More troops were dispatched to the area as the firefight grew and grew. Richard’s team engaged all enemies they could see from their rooftop and second-story positions.
During these chaotic few moments, a sniper shot and hit Rob in the face.
Richard’s team was finally ordered to break their position and prepare to exit. With the firefight still going on, they grabbed their gear, left the second-story position, and went out to street level where quick approaching tanks picked them up.
Military Buddies Who Fought Together Separated
“Rob was already gone after we evacuated the area and when we returned to the base, I learned he was medevacked out of Iraq for care,” Richard said. These military buddies never saw each other again while in the service.
The shot Rob took to the face caused him to lose his right eye and produced a lot of damage to nerves and the bones in his face. After being medevacked out of Iraq, he was eventually medically retired from the Army.
“I found out later that Richard was on a rooftop nearby and saw everything happen,” Rob said. “I am grateful that he was there. He saw what happened that day and was able to tell me what he saw and was able to fill in some gaps from that day. However, I am sad that he had to see that. I would not wish that upon anyone.”
PTSD Due to War
“I lost all my Army buddies’ contact information because none of my personal belongings ever made it back to me,” said Rob. “I fell into a deep depression because of PTSD. I was destroying myself by isolating myself from everyone, drinking a lot, and lying to myself that I was OK when I knew I was far from that. After years of trying therapies and medications, I got myself on a better path.”
Richard also suffers from PTSD and guilt from what he saw and experienced in Iraq. “I still carry a lot of guilt from that day,” said Richard. “If we had been authorized to recover the bodies from the beginning, those soldiers would have been brought back to their families, and Rob would never have gotten hurt. It was the most challenging day of my life, and I will never forgive myself for choosing to follow orders over doing what is right.”
Military Buddies Reunited After 16 Long Years
REUNION provides the opportunity for combat veterans to have a one-on-one reunion with a battle buddy over the course of several days in a secure and relaxing resort environment. Warriors benefit from a variety of helpful breakout sessions meant to support a healthy lifestyle. They also can spend therapeutic time on the golf course with their battle buddy and other supportive individuals. Spouses and caregivers enjoy time healing together while discussing problem-solving, self-care techniques, resource sharing, and much more.
“Both Richard and I have suffered from PTSD,” Rob said. “Once we reconnected and found each other, I would share things with Richard that had helped me out and he would share what has helped him so we could both try different things. However, talking to each other face to face at REUNION was probably the biggest help for both of us.”
Rob added, “The best thing about REUNION is everything from the first day to the last day. From reconnecting with your battle buddy, being on the golf course- which made me feel calm and at peace being outside- meeting new people, other veterans, and hearing what they have done to help themselves and hearing their stories.”
Richard says the group chats at REUNION were most beneficial. “Hearing and sharing stories helps us process our experience. Sharing our stories can also help civilians understand what service members go through and promote greater understanding and empathy. And connecting personally with other veterans builds bonds. “
“I can’t tell you how much Rob and I benefited, talked, and healed from the experience at Reunion 2023,” added Richard.
Having the opportunity to reconnect with friends who were there with you in combat is a therapeutic experience for attendees. Warriors can “open up,” talk, and discuss more easily the things that are bothering them.
Although Rob and Richard still fight the same fight against PTSD, they now have each other and the tools and other support they received at REUNION to help.
Tee It Up for the Troops REUNION
Tee It Up for the Troops relies on corporate REUNION sponsors and golfers to assist us in reuniting combat veterans, like Rob and Richard, and helping them transition from the battlefront to the homefront. This includes help for the hidden wounds of war like anxiety, depression, isolation, and suicide. If you are interested in helping more battle buddies reunite and changing lives, you can learn more, register or donate HERE.
Together, we can make a difference!