Nov. 10, 2006
By Joni Byars
“Some people wonder all their lives if they’ve made a difference. The Marines don’t have that problem.” ~ Ronald Reagan
Today we celebrate this country’s military, and our military heritage and tradition at Clemson. It is Military Appreciation Day in Death Valley, and what better way to celebrate than to honor one of our own and his fellow Marines. I would like to tell you about a Marine that has not only served his country in Iraq, of all places, but is a former Clemson baseball player and alumnus of this great institution.
Ryan Hub is a versatile individual and a Second Lieutenant serving on active duty in the Marine Corps. He was a outfielder for Head Coach Jack Leggett from 2000-04 who finished his career with a modest .230 batting average, 53 hits, six homers, and 35 RBIs in 128 games (59 starts).
“Ryan first caught my eye when he came to our baseball camp,” said Leggett. “We noticed the return address was Kuwait (where his father was stationed in the Air Force), and we knew it had to be the furthest anyone had ever come to participate in our baseball camp.
“Ryan was the kind of player you wanted at Clemson. He had some great moments here, and he always exemplified what the program is all about, both on and off the field.
“We are very proud of how he handled himself during his time here and since he graduated. He has represented Clemson and our program well, not to mention what he does for this country by serving as a Marine. I couldn’t be more proud of him.”
The son of a retired Air Force Colonel, Hub knew that he wanted to pursue a career in the Marine Corps at a very early age. His father is Retired Colonel Michael Hub, who flew F-111s in the Air Force for 27 years.
“When I was 14, I decided I wanted to be a Marine,” said Lieutenant Hub in a recent phone interview. “I always felt serving in the military would be something that my dad would be really proud of. I was never pushed into being in the military, it was something I wanted to do for myself.”
Hub was stationed at Quantico, VA before being deployed to Iraq for seven months. Currently, he can be found in uniform leading his Marines at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, NC. While deployed to Iraq, Hub experienced any leader’s worst nightmare.
He was the platoon commander in charge of 35 Marines when they took on enemy fire during patrol last August. They were attacked in a hostile area by an IED (Improvised Explosive Device). One of Hub’s squad leaders, Corporal Joe Tomci, was killed, and another Marine, Lance Corporal Walblay, was badly injured.
“The day I feared the most happened on the morning of August 2,” said Hub. “One of my Marines was killed in action when he was hit by an IED on the streets of Ramadi, Iraq. Corporal Tomci was an unbelievable Marine and made my life as a platoon commander easy. His squad was always doing the right thing…he wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Tomci was an “All American kid” who had just celebrated his 21st birthday a month prior to giving his life for his country. He was originally from Akron, OH and was a huge Ohio State fan. This highly-motivated Marine had already received the Navy Achievement Medal just three months into his deployment for the work he had done in Iraq.
According to Hub, “Tomci was above all else a warrior, someone you wanted to go to battle with. He was taking care of his squad, watching them and controlling them. Unfortunately, he wasn’t the only Marine hit. Two others were wounded along with our interpreter, and thankfully, they all lived.
“Lance Corporal Walblay was one of the wounded. He lost two toes, but he is alive because Corporal Tomci took most of the blast. I know that if he had it his way, he (Tomci) wouldn’t have changed a thing. He would have given his life to save the life of one of his Marines. And that is exactly what he did.
“The enlisted Marine is the most incredible part of the Marine Corps. What most people don’t understand is that it’s the 18 and 19-year-old Lance Corporals who have provided safety, security, and freedom to this country.”
Our enlisted soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines are a huge part of our military…”the backbone” as we called them in the Army.
As an Army veteran and former enlisted person, I can tell you that serving your country is not a trouble-free or painless profession. It is a 24-hour-a-day job, and you do not get to call in sick, show up late, or leave early. It is blood, sweat, and tears, and it never gets any easier.
But, I can tell you that those who do choose to serve are very proud to give up whatever they need in order to accomplish their mission. In the end, it is all the same mission…protect this country and its people, and do it with the utmost integrity, honor, discipline, and pride. We military types would not have it any other way.
I have been a Clemson fan all my life, and today’s game is #47 in a row for me (not bad for a student). I chose to join the Army in order to support myself through college. Clemson is the only school that I ever wanted to attend, and to say that I am a huge Tiger fan would be an understatement.
However, since my Tigers will not make the BCS National Championship game this year, I personally hope Ohio State brings home the national title for one Corporal Joe Tomci, a huge Buckeye fan, and a Marine who gave his life for his country and preserving our freedom.
I am dedicating this article to someone I respected very much and who taught me how to be a better soldier while stationed at Fort Bragg, NC. Retired Colonel John Chambers was not only one of my mentors, but someone I try to emulate in every aspect of my life.
While writing this article, I received word from a fellow Army buddy, former active duty Sergeant Sarah Zavala, that Colonel Chambers recently passed away, just two years after retiring from the Army at age 55.
I had every intention of inviting Colonel Chambers to my graduation in May, because he is one of the reasons I pushed myself so much to get here. One of the first things he did when he got to our office at the 44th Medical Command on Fort Bragg was to ask what I was going to do when I got out of the Army. I simply said, “I’m going to Clemson, sir.”
Anyone who knew me in the Army knew that I was going to get to Clemson one day, or die trying. When I received my acceptance letter, he was so proud of me and told me that he knew that I was going to do it when he first met me.
Officers like Lieutenant Ryan Hub and Colonel John Chambers in our military motivate us enlisted people to stay on the right track, and to keep doing the right thing. They essentially turn us into who we were meant to become. And I thank them for that.
So, on behalf of Lieutenant Hub, “Semper Fidelis Corporal Tomci.” And to Colonel John Chambers, Airborne All the Way!
Joni Byars, a senior from Lyman, SC, is a student assistant in the Clemson Sports Information Office. She previously served on active duty in the United States Army, and was stationed at Fort Bragg, NC and Yongsan, South Korea.
December 14, 2018