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The Most Heartbreaking Vance Moment From NCIS

Season 5 of military cop drama "NCIS" introduces Leon Vance (Rocky Carroll) to the show's supporting cast after the death of Naval Criminal Investigative Service director Jenny Shepard (Lauren Holly) necessitates his promotion from assistant director to the agency's new leader. Since then, Vance has continued to maintain his key role on "NCIS" into the series' 19th season more than a decade later (via IMDb).

Over the course of Vance's numerous storylines from throughout "NCIS" history, his character experiences perhaps his greatest personal tragedy when a shooting by ex-Mossad agent Ilan Bodnar (Oded Fehr) kills his wife Jackie (Paula Newsome) midway through Season 10. Later on, in Season 12, a health scare seems to threaten his life, but turns out to be a treatable case of sarcoidosis, from which he recovers fully.

Arguably the most heartbreaking Vance moment, however, comes a number of seasons later, when Vance memorializes the death of the family member of another major character. Not only does this moment recall Vance's own past loss, but it comments on the nature of losing a loved one in a way that resonated with both the show's characters and its viewership in equal measure.

Vance's poem is an emotional high point for NCIS

In "NCIS" Season 18 Episode 9, titled "Winter Chill," Tobias Fornell (Joe Spano) learns that his daughter has died from a drug overdose. After hearing the news himself, Leon Vance gives Fornell a poem that he mentions a friend of his sent him after his wife died. He then reads the poem — "Epitaph" by Merrit Malloy — at the NCIS offices, during which the episode superimposes shots of various other characters processing their own grief.

After the episode aired, many fans publicly shared how heartbreaking they found this scene. Twitter user @RoxRolls, for example, tagged "NCIS" writer Scott Williams in a tweet that reads, "This was beautiful & powerful & so heartbreaking. The Merrit Malloy poem is both haunting & uplifting. As usual, you have left us with deep feelings."

Meanwhile, in a Reddit thread about the poem, user tsmith60 wrote "My mother in law died this past weekend and when he read that poem, my emotions took over." In a similar vein, user level GangstaHit commented "I think I will read that poem at my mom's memorial this weekend."

While Vance himself may have gone through his fair share of emotional ordeals over the years, his poem's invocation of both a number of prior deaths in the series as well as ones viewers experienced in their own lives make this arguably the most heartbreaking moment from throughout Vance's entire "NCIS" tenure.