Published on Friday, August 15, 2008, Fayetteville Observer
'His dad would be proud'
By Henry Cuningham
Fire Marshal Ronald P. Bucca died at age 47 searching for trapped victims on the 78th floor of the South Tower, one floor below where the airplane hit.
Staff Sgt. Ronald L. Bucca, the son of a Special Forces veteran and New York City fire marshal who died trying to rescue people on 9/11, received his own green beret on Thursday.
Bucca, 28, was among 121 graduates of Special Forces Qualification Course class 238 who walked across the stage at the Crown Arena.
His father, Fire Marshal Ronald P. Bucca, died at age 47 on the 78th floor of the World Trade Center’s South Tower, one floor below where the airplane hit.
“I joined after 9/11 with the main intent to make sure it didn’t happen to anybody else’s family, they didn’t lose a loved one and our homeland wasn’t attacked again,” Bucca said after the ceremony.
Brig. Gen. Michael S. Repass, the commander of Fort Bragg’s U.S. Army Special Forces Command, told the graduates that the end of the rigorous physical and mental training is only the beginning of their career challenges. They’ll serve on 12-man Special Forces A-teams that deploy around the globe.
“You are now journeymen,” Repass said. “You must enter the team room and learn to be part of the team.”
Repass said he was getting reports Thursday from Georgia, the former Soviet state where fighting broke out with Russia over separatist movements.
“Green Berets are in the middle of all that,” Repass said.
Bucca had with him his father’s green beret with the insignia of the 11th Special Forces Group, an Army Reserve unit that was deactivated and absorbed into the 20th Special Forces Group.
“It’s an honor to wear it,” Bucca said.
Eight members of the New York City Fire Department’s Bureau of Fire Investigation were in the audience wearing their dress blue uniforms. Their host in Fayetteville was Lt. Col. Patrick Mahaney, a cousin of one of the supervising fire marshals.
“We wanted to be here to honor the memory of Ronnie Bucca and also to show support for the Buccas and Ron,” said Andrew Di Fusco, 40, supervising fire marshal and partner of Bucca. “Many of us worked with Ronnie.”
On 9/11, the elder Bucca got to the 78th floor on foot, Di Fusco said.
“The man was in phenomenal shape,” Di Fusco said. “And he did it in a short amount of time.”
The father also was a nurse and a warrant officer in the Army Reserve.
“To see Ronnie in his green beret today, I know his dad would be proud,” Di Fusco said.
At a fire in the 1980s, a backblast blew Bucca off a fire escape. He fell several stories and broke his back. Instead of quitting, he rehabilitated himself and returned to firefighting, Di Fusco said.
“I’m honored that they made the trip and they came down here,” said Staff Sgt. Bucca. “I appreciate their support. They were there right after 9/11. They are still here now. They continue to support me and be by my side.”
The younger Bucca started out in the Army as a military intelligence analyst in support of 5th Special Forces Group from Fort Campbell, Ky.
“I have to give all the credit to them,” he said. “They helped train me up. They showed me what it was to be a Green Beret and the whole warrior mentality and the lifestyle it entails.”
The Special Forces graduates included detachment officers and enlisted weapons sergeants, engineer sergeants, medical sergeants and communications sergeants.
Bucca was on the commandant’s list as a Special Forces engineer sergeant. Bucca said he liked being in a field where he learned construction to help rebuild countries. He also is fond of demolitions.
“I’ve sort of acquired a love for making things go boom,” he said. “I like it.”
He will go to the 1st Battalion of the 20th Special Forces Group in Massachusetts.
His mother, Eve Bucca, and sister, Jessica Bucca-Hughes, were in the audience.
Besides being the widow of a firefighter, Mrs. Bucca is the daughter and granddaughter of firefighters.
“I’m third-generation ‘fire,’” she said. “So in my family that was always something that we lived with. I think it’s one of the things that has made our family so strong, that knowledge that when someone walks through the door, you may not always see them again. So you try and live with one another. You live your life as fully as you can while you have the people that you have.”
Firefighters and Special Forces soldiers have continued to reach out to their family over the years, Mrs. Bucca said.
The military has honored her husband with a museum exhibit on Fort Bragg and a camp named in his honor in Iraq.
Mrs. Bucca donated her husband’s blue dress uniform and medals to the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Museum on Fort Bragg.
A twisted 12-foot steel beam from the World Trade Center is on display outside the entrance of the museum at Marion and Ardennes streets.
Bucca’s uniform is on display with information about his service as a soldier and firefighter. The exhibit says Bucca predicted after the Feb. 26, 1993, attack on the World Trade Center that terrorists would try again.
“He’s a hero to many Americans,” said Roxanne M. Merritt, the museum’s director and curator. “Just because he wasn’t in Special Forces when he was killed doesn’t make him any less a role model for Special Forces.”
Military editor Henry Cuningham can be reached at email@example.com