By Collin Smith
Throughout my three years at The George Washington University Law School, I have often heard this trying time referred to as a “journey” from peers and faculty alike. Some people may think that three years is merely a footnote in the journey that we all call life. The last two and a half years that I knew John Hroncich, however, were anything but a footnote.
A little over two years ago, in August 2010, I started my three-year “tour of duty” here at GW Law. Fresh off of a brief tour to Iraq, the list of academic-related stressors was quite short compared to some of the deployment-related stressors I was still struggling to decompress, but still strong nonetheless. I struggled to focus in classes, I struggled with the 1L midterm, and I struggled (mightily) with LRW. In short, law school was chewing me up and spitting me out. In September, angry with myself for not feeling “smart enough” and being stressed out with the competitive atmosphere, I met a guy from Hazlet, New Jersey who greeted me with a huge smile, a vice-grip of a handshake, and an emphatic “hey, what’s up!”
Despite all of the pressure and the stress, “Jersey Johnny” was the first person to take a time out from the blistering pace of law school to say hello, ask me how I was doing, and offer a few words of encouragement. Sometimes his encouragement was direct, and sometimes it wasn’t. There are countless times where I would listen to him tackle a question in class or listen to him ask a question in class and the down-to-earth way he approached everything about law school helped to bring me back to my own sense of balance and “recenter” my focus.
John made law school fun — even though it isn’t supposed to be. After spending a handful of months preparing for my deployment, then being deployed, and then barreling straight into law school, I was stuck going 100 miles per hour in one direction without taking any time to stop and enjoy the journey.
Over the remainder of that first year, and all the way through December 20th of last year, I enjoyed my law school journey alongside John. It absolutely has not been the same since his passing. John was a genuine and kind-hearted friend. I miss his smile, his bone-crushing handshake, and his always genuine “hey, what’s up!” and I am sure everyone who knew him also misses the same. Still, I know that John would want all of us to continue to enjoy the journey, and to live our lives to the fullest even during the most stressful and trying times.
Last but certainly not least, although I am in the Army, my brothers and sisters in the Navy have a saying that I feel is appropriate as we continue our journey through life. With John in our hearts, thoughts, and prayers, and through all of the good times to come and the more difficult to overcome, I want to leave you all with this:
Fair Winds and Following Seas, John.
You might be gone, but you will never be forgotten.
John Hroncich: 1988-2012
Collin Smith is a member of the GW Law Class of 2013 and a Captain in the United States Army.