A long life is both a blessing and a curse. As the years pass we have to endure the unendurable, the loss of someone close to us. I do my very best to try to concentrate on the blessing end of things, the time together, the laughs and the love, but regardless of our efforts we all will have to face the hard part of life eventually. Our traditions as Appalachian people regarding death have deep reasoning behind them; it is the true structure of the grieving process acted out and shared, and while it can never take the pain away, it can give us strength.
I did not know Ron Bellan very well; we had met on one occasion in 2015 and had spoken on the phone many times when I was working on a “Veteran’s Owned Businesses” piece for the Gun Digest Annual in 2016. However, I got to know him through our mutual friend Bobby Dove, who I highlighted in another Campfire piece some time ago (https://appalachianmemorykeepers.org/warriors-walts-campfire/). Ron was instrumental in helping Bobby deal with the reality of what had happened to him in Afghanistan and they served together on the board of directors for Special Operations Wounded Warriors (SOWWCHARITY.COM). Over their association they became very close, and because Bobby is very close to me, when he hurts, I hurt.
If you have never had the opportunity to get to know one of our elite fighting men, and here I mean special operations folks from the Rangers, Green Berets, or, in Ron’s case, a Navy SEAL, you cannot know the price these folks have paid for all of us. Ron was a Master Chief in the SEALS, with 20 years active duty on the teams; I once asked him how he survived it, the training and the fighting, the many deployments, the losses and wins, all he could tell me was “This is what I was meant to do.” My God, what a magnificent thing to say.
If you don’t understand how blessed we are as a people to have folks like Ron Bellan among us, if you are incapable of loving our country and the war-fighters that stand between us and the abyss, I pity you. We owe these men a debt of gratitude they never seek; and, it is no surprise that Ron has gone on ahead before us, to make sure the way is safe. You have done your duty Ron, and now you can rest.
As your buddy Jess said, “We’ll take it from here”.