Navy reservist Ronald Vauk – who was killed two weeks ago when a hijacked jetliner crashed into the Pentagon – will be awarded the Purple Heart on Friday, the day before his body is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
The medal will be presented to Vauk's wife, Jennifer.
The 37-year-old graduate of the Naval Academy and a former submarine officer had begun his two-week reserve training at the Pentagon just the day before the
terrorist attack. He was one of 189 killed at the Pentagon.
Press Report: 27 September 2001:
A Mass of Christian burial for Ronald James Vauk of Mount Airy, who was killed at the Pentagon on September 11, will be offered at 12:45 p.m. Saturday at the Arlington National Cemetery Memorial Chapel.
Commander Vauk, 37, was beginning two weeks of annual active duty for the Naval Reserve and serving as watch commander in the Naval Command Center at the Pentagon when a hijacked plane struck the building. Since 1997, he had been an assistant group supervisor in submarine technology at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel.
Born in Nampa, Idaho, Vauk was a 1987 graduate of the Naval Academy, where he earned a degree in political science. He served on the submarines USS Glenard P. Lipscomb and the USS Oklahoma City, attaining the rank of Lieutenant Commander and receiving several medals and commendations. After about seven years of active duty, he entered the reserves and began working for Delex Corp. in Tyson's Corner, Virginia, where he was project manager for naval contracts.
A devoted family man, Commander Vauk also enjoyed woodworking and golf.
Visiting hours at Sterling Ashton Schwab Funeral Home, 736 Edmondson Ave., are from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. today.
He is survived by his wife of 14 years, the former Jennifer Mooney, who is expecting a child in November, and their 3-year-old son, Liam; four brothers, Charles Vauk of Boise, Idaho, David Vauk of Nampa, Gary Vauk of Grapevine, Texas, and Dennis Vauk of Houston; and four sisters, Teri Masterson of Carson City, Nev., Celia Shikuma of Huntington Beach, Calif., Lynne Caba of Nampa and Patricia Vauk of Minneapolis.
A Ronald James Vauk Memorial Fund for his wife and children has been established in care of First Mariner Bank, 1801 S. Clinton St., Baltimore 21224.
Press Report 30 September 2001:
Within view of the blackened Pentagon where he was killed September 11, Nampa native Ron Vauk was buried with full military honors Saturday in Arlington National Cemetery.
About 300 mourners, many wearing Navy dress whites, filled a chapel on the grounds of Fort Myer to attend Vauk's funeral Mass and a graveside service afterward.
Vauk, who was born and grew up in Nampa, was one of 189 people who died when hijackers slammed a commercial jetliner into the Pentagon. A Lieutenant Commander in the Naval Reserves, Vauk was serving as the Watch Commander at the Naval Command Center and was just starting his second day of annual active duty.
Two weeks before he was killed, the 37-year-old father of one with a second child due in November prepared a resume for the Navy, his brother-in-law Chris DeBoy said in his eulogy.
“He listed his first goal to be the best father and husband he could be,” DeBoy said. “Ron stood watch for the nation on September 11. Now he stands watch for all of us.”
DeBoy said Vauk was a dedicated son. Every year he returned to Nampa to visit his parents, Hubert and Dorothy Vauk. He was talented, funny and a playful teaser.
A 1982 Nampa High School graduate, Vauk was the baby of the family who always won at Scrabble, DeBoy said.
With their 3-year-old son, Liam, in her arms, Vauk's wife, Jennifer, led the mourners out of the chapel into a gray afternoon.
There a military honor guard lifted Vauk's flag-draped metal casket onto a horse-drawn caisson. As the mourners followed in cars, the caisson slowly made its way to the burial site.
In front of the caisson was a 15-piece military band and a 21-member escort platoon, all decked out in Navy dress whites.
Seven dark horses, mounted by four riders, pulled the caisson. Five more sailors brought up the rear.
In a halting fashion, six sailors removed the casket from the caisson and carried it to the grave. As they did so, the sun peeked out from behind clouds.
The sailors set the casket down and lifted the flag from the coffin and held it horizontally.
Navy chaplain Darold Bigger said a prayer.
A seven-man firing team then shot a three-round volley. A lone bugler played “Taps.”
The casket team slowly folded the flag with crisp movements, while the band played the Navy hymn.
“On behalf of a grateful nation and a proud Navy, we present you this flag,” Rear Admiral Michael Loose said as he handed the folded Stars and Stripes to Jennifer Vauk.
When the ceremony ended, Jennifer and Liam, a pacifier in his mouth, walked to the casket with other family members, tearfully touched it and placed small red paper flowers on it.
In general, only military retirees, those who died in active duty, and their spouses can be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, though certain others may qualify for the honor.
After high school, Ron Vauk attended the U.S. Naval Academy and was an officer on the submarines USS Glenard P. Lipscomb and USS Oklahoma City. He left active duty in 1993.
At the time of his death, Vauk was employed at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, where he worked on submarine technology.
The Navy awarded Vauk the Purple Heart in a ceremony at the Johns Hopkins laboratory on Friday. Jennifer Vauk accepted the Purple Heart, and young Liam received a polished wooden box to hold his fathers' medals.
A local memorial Mass for Ron Vauk will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Paul's Catholic Church, 1515 8th St. S., Nampa.
Lynn Caba, Ron Vauk's sister, is manager of the Wells Fargo main branch in Nampa. Her team members established and contributed to the Ron Vauk Benefit Fund to cover immediate expenses for his pregnant wife, Jennifer Vauk, and their 3-year-old son, Liam. Additional money will be used as an educational fund for Vauk's children. Donations are being accepted at any Wells Fargo branch.
U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Mike Loose salutes Jennifer Vauk and her son Liam, 3, after giving her a U.S. flag in honor of her husband, Lt. Commander Ron Vauk.
Lieutenant Commander Ronald J. Vauk
Attack Location: Pentagon
Age: Not Available
Home: Nampa, Idaho
Lieutenant Commander Ronald James Vauk was on the second day of his annual two-week Navy Reserve stint at the Pentagon when the Boeing 757 plunged into the building Tuesday morning.
His family thought the damaged section housed mostly Army personnel. But by 7 that night, when there was still no word of him, relatives began to fear the worst. Then they learned that Vauk, of Mount Airy, Virginia, was assigned to the Naval Command Center under the section that had been hit. Yesterday, the Navy listed him as missing.
He has a 3-year-old son, and his wife is pregnant with their second child. Vauk, who attended the U.S. Naval Academy and spent five years in the Navy before joining the reserves, works at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in research.
“I'm trying to hope for a miracle, like everyone else,” said a sister, Pat Vauk, who arrived home from work yesterday to find the unwelcome sight of funeral flowers sitting on her table. “You try to hold out hope, but as time goes on, it gets harder.”
Pat Vauk last saw her brother, whom she described as a “fabulous human being,” on Friday, when she came to Baltimore from her Minneapolis home on business.
She said rescuers had been unable to penetrate the area where they believe her brother was working. The family — he is the youngest of nine siblings — is spread out across the country, and the others have been unable to come to Washington because of the commercial aviation ban.
“It's just not easy, not easy at all to go through this,” she said.
— Jo Becker
Ronald J. Vauk As Midshipman
United States Naval Academy
Read our general and most popular articles
Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard