This year’s Veterans Day ceremony was an especially intimate occasion for two reasons:
This year’s Veterans Day ceremony was an especially intimate occasion for two reasons: cold weather prompted Rye Post #128 to move the gathering inside City Hall, rather than hold it on the Village Green, and Lt. Col. Tony Bancroft, USMC Reserve, delivered an emotional speech about the impact of wartime service on individuals and families.
Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen. It is an honor and pleasure to be here today. By way of background, I served on active duty in the United States Marine Corps for 11 years, then transitioned to the Reserves, earned an MBA from Columbia Business School, and was fortunate enough to be hired by Gabelli Funds here in Rye.
I am not from a career military family. My family was and is made up of ordinary Americans, who chose to serve their country during wartime when their country needed them – just like millions of other American families. Some also served during peacetime. As I was lying in bed thinking about what I was going to say today, I started counting up on my fingers all my family members who served during wartime.
My brother, Lt. Col. Jamie Bancroft, served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom as a Marine HUEY pilot with HMLA-169, The Vipers, deploying to Kuwait for the initial invasion in 2003. Jamie has been deployed a total of five times, and I have seen firsthand what a toll it has taken on his wife, children, and our parents, as it does all military families who go through multiple deployments.
My father, John Bancroft, served as a first lieutenant in the 173rd Airborne Brigade in An Khe Central Highlands, Vietnam, from 1967 to 1968 during the Tet Offensive. At the same time, my father’s cousin, Spec 4 Thomas Henry Clarken III, serving in the U.S. Army as well, in nearby Binh Dinh. He was killed on September 19, 1968. Tommy’s family never recovered.
My Uncle Pete Sauerbrey was a Navy Lieutenant Line Officer aboard the USS Hancock (CVA-19), deploying three times to Yankee Station off the coast of Vietnam. The Hancock had A-4 Skyhawks and F-8 Crusaders. Uncle Pete became very friendly with the F-8 pilots and sadly witnessed too many of them perish while trying to land aboard the Hancock during monsoons and high seas.
My uncle, Cap Beyer, was a First Lieutenant in the Marine Corps stationed at 29 Palms serving in a Hawk Missile battalion. In the middle of the night in November 1964 under complete secrecy, the whole battalion deployed en-route to Vietnam, and he left his young wife, my Aunt Margy and their 1-year-old son, my cousin Keller.
Fortunately, Aunt Margy and Keller were left okay, but many of the young enlisted Marines’ spouses and children were left in dire straits by this secret deployment.
My Uncle Cap’s father, Malcolm Keller Beyer, was a Major in the Marine Corps during World War II, serving with the First Marine Division at Guadalcanal and Third Marine Division at Bougainville, Guam, and Iwo Jima. During the war, Major Beyer became best friends with Bob Kriendler, the former owner of the 21 Club. On multiple occasions during the war, the two friends saved each other’s lives.
My grandmother’s brother, Uncle Daniel Corbin Rapalje was a bomber pilot who flew the B-24, Liberator, stationed at Balikpapan on Borneo, then later at Morotai Island, Indonesia. My Aunt Holly, his wife, was a WAC during World War II. Our family has a photograph of Uncle Dan and Aunt Holly’s wedding on July 1, 1944; they were a handsome couple both in their dress white uniforms. Uncle Dan left college to enlist in the Army Air Corps in 1942. He named his B-24 “Holly’s Comet” after his wife. Uncle Dan was very close to his mother, writing her every single day while he was in the service. She wrote him a letter every single day as well.
My Uncle Eliot Payson Corbin enlisted in the Army and served as an ambulance driver in World War I from 1917-1918. He was about as opposite of Ernest Hemingway as you could imagine, but he thought it was his duty to volunteer and serve his country. He kept a diary, writing in it how much his mother would have been horrified if she knew that every single person in those trenches, including him, had gotten lice.
My relatives were just ordinary Americans who lived through extraordinary times. They all did the best they could, given their circumstances, and their families supported them while they were overseas, proudly hanging Blue Stars in their windows.
On this Veterans Day, I’d like to remember and honor not only my family members who served in our wars, but all service members and their families who have supported them while they were and are overseas. Thank you for the honor of inviting me to speak today.
— Photos by Robin Jovanovich