Army veteran Mason Rick of Cincinnati wears a memorial bracelet in honor of his friend and fallen solider, Army veteran Mike Runyan. Mason spoke with his coworker, Henry Saas, and shared his memories of his comrade, Mike.
Henry Saas (HS): So, one of the things I've noticed is that you wear a bracelet on your wrist.
Mason Rick (MR): Right. So, it's aluminum and black in color. The style became popular during the Vietnam War. So, a lot of times they’re referred to as POW or MIA bracelets, and more now they kind of signify a person who's been killed in action, as opposed to someone who's either a prisoner of war or missing in action. And so, Mike Runyan was a classmate of mine at Xavier. He graduated the year before me in 2008. I tried to stay really close to Mike. And not even so much of, I want to hang out with you. I want to ... But I want to observe you and I want to try to model myself after you, because I think you're doing everything right, and I want to be like that. He was funny. He was smart. He was tall. He was handsome. He was fast. He was strong. He would do all those things, and he would turn around and he would beat you in video games, and he would beat you in Risk, and he would beat you in Monopoly. I mean, he could do it all. And it was pretty incredible how open and willing he was to be that guy for everybody. So, sometime late June, or early July, we have lunch together right before he deploys. And you can tell he's been training for this for so long and he's just ready to go do his job and take care of business. And he's so on it.
HS: He sounds like he wants to do it the best he can, like he did everything else.
MR: Right. Exactly. Yes. So, a couple, three weeks go by, and I get an e-mail that says Mike had been killed in action. I come to find out his vehicle got hit by an IED. So, then when I heard that, I go through all these like scenarios in my head and I tried to reconstruct what happened. So, was it the day or was it nighttime? Was a bad weather? Was his the first vehicle? Was it the third vehicle? Was the last one? Where was he sitting? Was he sitting in the front? Was he sitting in the back? You go through all these scenarios, and not to assign blame or fault, but to just understand what happened, and like how did it happen to him? And what are the odds? So, I am trying to piece all this together and then I remember driving home and it wasn't anywhere on my radar whenever I was driving home. I don't know why I totally just kind of like blacked out in my mind. But I got home, and I just said it. I said, Mike Runyan died. And I just lost it, and I couldn't come back from that. I just had a really hard time, and it's kind of been there ever since.
HS: If it's any consolation at all, I see Mike Runyan in you.
HS: Thank you.
Army veteran Mason Rick's conversation with his coworker Henry Saas took place at WYSO as part of StoryCorps' Military Voices Initiative which visited the Miami Valley last summer. Veterans’ Voices on WYSO is presented by Wright-Patt Credit Union with additional support from CareSource. This story was edited by Will Davis and created at the Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO.