New Kensington-Arnold Veterans Day speaker to focus on honor, camaraderie
Retired Marine Corps Capt. Ray Baronie says he's become fast friends with a group of men two generations his senior who spend their Saturdays at Jimmy's Barber Shop in New Kensington.
“What we have in common is that we have served in a combat environment,” said Baronie, 32, of Upper Burrell. The Iraq War veteran gets his hair trimmed each weekend at the shop. “They've just become friends.”
Baronie, a Marine officer who was seriously wounded during Operation Iraqi Freedom, will speak at the New Kensington and Arnold Veterans Day ceremony Monday, following a parade.
He plans to focus on the honor and camaraderie felt among veterans and their appreciation for those who support them.
“The A-K Valley has so many folks who served in so many generations and it produces a lot of people who go on to serve,” he said. “I want to thank the friends and family who support us, because even if you don't put on a uniform, you're still making a sacrifice.”
Baronie helped train and equip Iraqi security forces. On Dec. 1, 2005, his vehicle was hit by a rocket in Ramadi, Iraq.
As a result of his injuries, his right leg was amputated above the knee and his left leg is paralyzed.
Baronie underwent 46 surgeries and spent 18 months in a hospital and in rehabilitation.
He received several commendations for his service, including the Purple Heart and Meritorious Service Medal.
He retired from the Marines in 2011.
Baronie is a program analyst with the Office of Personnel Management, Federal Investigative Services. It assists more than 100 federal agencies with investigative services for background checks.
New Kensington resident Dennis Gianotti, master of ceremonies for the Veterans Day event, said he asked Baronie to speak because he believes the vet can inspire people.
“He works hard. He's got a great job; he's very smart,” Gianotti said. “I think he has a story to tell.”
Baronie said he has no regrets despite what he went through.
“I think it made me a better person, times 10,” he said. “I learned things about leadership. Especially being an officer, there's such an expectation for being a well-rounded person.”
But, he said, he's nervous about speaking in front of friends and family.
“I've had other speaking engagements, but those were during active duty to my fellow Marines,” he said. “This is the first time back in my hometown.”
Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4702 or firstname.lastname@example.org.