Veteran of the Month – John Romano

March 3, 2015

March 2015 Veteran of the Month – John Romano

Name: John Romano

Place of Birth: Bronx, New York

Date of Birth: February 6, 1945

Military Branch of Service: United States Air Force

Enlisted, Commissioned or Drafted?: Enlisted

Service Dates: Entry 4/27/1965 – Discharge 6/23/1969

Highest Rank: E6 Tech Sergeant

Military Jobs: “ARS” Air Rescue Service

Duties: Para Jumper (PJ) Rescue – Rescued downed pilots/crew, ground troops and other military members. Also served as a PJ instructor

Unit, Division, Battalion, Group, Ship, etc.: 13th Air Force, 37th Division, “MAC” Military Airlift Command

War, Operation, or Conflict served in: Vietnam

Location of Service: Vietnam bases of operation: Nha Trang, Phu Cat, Pleiku, Da Nang

Battles/Campaigns: Daily Rescue Missions

Decorations: National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Overseas Service Medal (2), Combat Ready Service medal, Air Force Combat Action

Combat or service-related injuries: Injured on final mission, left leg and back

Military Schools/Training: Lackland Air Force Base, Tinker Air Force Base, Hamilton Air Force Base, Edwards Air Force Base, Travis Air Force Base

About John

John Romano was born in the Bronx, NY in 1945. He always knew he wanted to join the Air Force.

Romano graduated from high school in 1963 and quickly went for his examination to determine his eligibility to be drafted. After about a year, Romano had not heard back from the military on his draft status, so he took it upon himself to enlist in the Air Force. As luck would have it, he received draft notification from the army a week later, but he stuck with the Air Force.

He began training in Lackland, Texas and eventually was sent to a Strategic Air Command (SAC) base in state. But Romano wanted to go to Vietnam to serve his country, so he decided to become involved in air rescue, and went through heavy training to prepare for his new role as a para jumper (PJ) rescuer.

In Vietnam Romano flew on a Sikorsky HH3C “Jolly Green.” He was trained to harness and descend into war zones to rescue fellow military members, sometimes even venturing into the very dangerous Cambodia. He would perform immediate first aid on the ground before lifting back up with the rescued.

Vietnam presented many challenges to the military and put Romano in some very frightening situations.

“Our technology was not meant to work under trees, under bushes,” Romano explained. “But the scariest moments was after I got everyone up and was on my way back.”

There were many para jumpers that were killed in action, Romano explained. Sometimes when para jumpers reached the ground to rescue someone they were faced with close ground combat. And when they were lifting up or dropping down they were easy targets for the enemy.

Romano served a total of 11 months and 21 days in country. At one point after about seven months, he went to Bangkok for rest and recuperation, but wanted to go back to Vietnam where he felt there was still more work to do. His service eventually ended after he was injured in his final rescue mission, when his pilot lifted up quickly while under fire and Romano’s line snapped, temporarily paralyzing his legs and back.

“Coming home was terrible,” Roman told Witkos, as he explained the feeling of losing a number of childhood friends who didn’t make it back.

One of the worst things about returning home from Vietnam was the disdain many people had for the military at the time, Romano said.

“Giving up my life for a while, being in harm’s way for the good of freedom for people, I never felt was wrong, but others did. And I still don’t feel that that was wrong. That was just something that we did,” Romano explained. “We were Americans… we were always trying to help people out.”

But Romano recognizes that today times are different. He also has a message for people considering joining the military today to serve our country and people around the world.

“Joining the military and being a part of what this country does is one of the greatest things you can do.”

After serving, Romano pursued an education at Manhattan College in New York and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering. He worked as a design engineer and manager in nuclear waste handling systems for 18 years. He is currently employed as a Project Manager for the Waste to Energy Facility at the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority (CRRA) where he has worked for the past 27 years.

Romano also pursued an active role in his community after service, volunteering as a religious education teacher, serving on the Simsbury aging and disability commission, holding a board position at the YMCA, and serving on the Simsbury Board of Selectmen for 10 years. He also currently serves as a VFW Commander.

Romano has been married to his wife Carol for 39 years. Together they have three daughters: Stacy, Lyndsay and Victoria.