The entire year, let alone this holiday season, has presented itself with numerous unforeseen obstacles and challenges for everyone as the world has continued to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic. And the U.S. military is no exception.
Army Maj. Ralph A. Geraci has made his way back to the states after his second tour in Iraq. His dad said his son was hoping to be reunited with his family for the holidays. But because the soldier remains in mandatory quarantine in Texas, he’s not expected to be released until Dec. 28 — missing Christmas.
“I’m relieved he’s back in the states, but now he said it doesn’t look like he’ll be back on Dec. 28,” said Ralph’s father, Philip Geraci, of Clinton.
Maj. Geraci is a former resident of Utica, who graduated from Thomas R. Proctor High School. He went on to attend Vassar College and Hahnemann University School of Medicine.
On Dec. 28, Geraci returns from his second tour of duty in the Middle East, where he served in an Army Medical Division. An Army Reservist, Geraci is a physician assistant in a large orthopedic practice, where he resides in Michigan with his wife, Danu, and their three children, ages 15, 12 and 5. His second tour was for six months. Ralph is the son of Philip and Joanne Geraci, of Clinton.
Geraci Sr. recalled the joy of watching a video of Ralph return home from his first tour of duty.
“The first time he came back when he was deployed, they made a video of him walking through the airport, and everyone started clapping. It was so heartwarming — it brought tears to my eyes.”
Geraci said Ralph decided to join the military later in life to ensure that is family had the best possible medical care and educational opportunities. One of his sons suffers from a hereditary disease that could eventually cause blindness, and Ralph wanted to be sure that he and his other two children were well cared for, Geraci explained.
But this isn’t the first holiday season the Geraci family has had a child serving overseas.
In 1988, youngest son, Philip, was about to graduate from high school when he insisted on going into the military.
“He was going to be 18 in a few months, so we signed for him,” Philip Sr. remembered. “There was no war at the time, and then he got dispatched to Saudi Arabia when the threat of war began. He was in Desert Shield. At first he was a combat engineer, and he was a driver of those large tanks.”
“We (he and wife Joanne) watched the news religiously,” Geraci continued. “(Herbert Norman) Schwarzkopf Jr. was the general at the time, and we had our VHS player set on record every time he came on TV. We had four children, and I remember yelling upstairs, ‘I think I see Philip!’ when one of those tanks rolled by. In my mind’s eye, I wanted to see him. Later on, I indicated to the family that it really wasn’t him. We taped everything and were very anxious about Philip getting home.” Geraci said Philip was a member of the division that attacked Basra in Iraq.
“He actually watched missiles go over his head, and he described it as unbelievable, like seeing an outdoor movie,” Geraci described. “Saddam conceded and low and behold, Philip and his division didn’t have to stay. But he had a friend volunteer to go in and de-mine all the booby traps, so he volunteered with him. I called our congressman at the time, Sherry Boehlert, and asked if he could get Philip out of there. He said, ‘I can’t even get that for my friend’s son.’”
Geraci said his son escaped serious injury when his tank drove over a bomb during their de-mining efforts.
“If he wasn’t on metal tracks, and on rubber tires instead, he would have definitely been maimed,” the father said. “Thank God nothing happened. We went through all of that, and then he came home.”
So when older son Ralph announced he was going to become a reservist, Geraci admits he was a little nervous.
“Ralph joined as second lieutenant — then we were in the War on Terror — and he apparently worked on many soldiers who had difficulties — they had a lot of surgeries,” which is why he chose the orthopedics path.
Geraci said Ralph, “got in a big orthopedic practice, a couple years go by, and then he gets a call — he’s an on-call Reservist in Afghanistan because his medical field is so necessary.”
During his first tour, “He was close to the action, and he could hear fighting in the distance,” the father said of his son. “And then six months ago, he was back in Kuwait. So he was in areas where his brother had left.”
And with relief, Geraci said he cannot wait to see son Ralph’s face — which will be a special Christmas gift during a very challenging year.
Ralph is “on his way home now, and I’m just hoping and praying he’ll be here,” he said.