Last Thursday marked the 10-year anniversary of the death of Sgt. James J. Regan, a Manhasset native and special operations soldier who was killed by an improvised explosive device in northern Iraq.
“We miss Jimmy a lot,” said Jim Regan, his father. “It sucks. It’s not easy, period.”
Soon after his son’s death, Jim Regan founded the Manhasset-based Army Ranger Lead the Way Fund, a nonprofit organization that provides services for soldiers and the families of soldiers who belong to the 75th Ranger Regiment, of which James Regan was a part.
The 75th Ranger Regiment conducts raids, personnel recovery, reconnaissance and other high-risk operations.
“It has been about 15 years since 9/11,” Jim Regan said. “Only units like [the regiment] are really taking on the full burden of defense now in the fight of the war on terrorism.”
“It’s a long time we’ve been in this fight,” he said. “The pressure on these forces is extreme.”
Regan said his organization spends over $1 million providing services for 4,000 soldiers and family members each year.
Such services include the Ranger Transition Program, which helps special forces veterans get into top universities and attain quality jobs; and the Wounded Ranger Recovery Program, which gives financial and medical support to severely wounded soldiers.
“When a young man gets wounded in theater, he is flown into Germany and gets treated there,” Regan said. “He is then airlifted to Walter Reed [National Military Medical Center] and we give a $3,500 grant to him and his family to take care of incidentals.”
“That’s what we do all the time. That’s blocking and tackling for us. The government flies in two family members and we fly in the rest. Could be almost 10,” he added. “We’re with the soldier all through the recovery phase. We will be with them and it will take a couple years for some of these guys to recover if they recover fully.”
The Lead the Way Fund operates 90 percent of the services it funds, and partners with outside organizations for the other 10 percent, Regan said.
Jimmy Regan was a student and athlete at Chaminade High School. He was recruited for lacrosse by Duke University, where he helped lead the team to two ACC championships. In 2002, he graduated with a degree in economics before he decided to join the Army.
“Knowing that Jimmy would be proud of how far we have come, and how many lives we have touched, gives us the comfort and the resolve to keep pushing forward with our mission,” Jim Regan said. “As long as our Rangers need us, we stand ready to support them.”
He said the future of the organization will depend on what takes place in American foreign policy.
“If conflict grows and issues happen, we will expand our budget into it,” he said.