Bay Shore resident Frank Romeo, a Vietnam War veteran, will soon be completing his trek around NYS. Read about his upcoming homecoming here.
BAY SHORE—Frank Romeo has spent the last few months walking across New York State, looking to raise awareness to the plight of veterans.
The lifelong Bay Shore resident and Vietnam veteran began his 750-mile trek in Buffalo, N.Y., on March 1—his 70th birthday. He also plans on producing a documentary, “Walk With Frank,” about the initiative, which includes speaking engagements and sleeping in various homeless shelters along the way.
His walk is scheduled to end on Saturday, June 8 at Bay Shore High School, where his larger journey began over 50 years ago.
Romeo joined the military right after graduating from high school in 1967. He arrived in Southeast Asia in the spring of the following year, during the Tet Offensive, one of the largest campaigns of the Vietnam War. While on search-and-destroy missions, he was wounded by enemy soldiers.
Shortly after his time in Vietnam, Romeo began suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. “I believe the stigma surrounding mental health in this country is not helping our veterans,” he said during a speech at Pinelawn National Cemetery on Memorial Day. “We need to get that message out there and speak about it, loud and clear.”
Romeo said that while he did the walking, he did it on behalf of all veterans. The theme of the walk, he said, is “moving forward.”
“This Memorial Day, we as surviving veterans, have a responsibility,” he added. “We have a responsibility to lay the foundation for our younger veterans. We have a responsibility to promote education, to promote mental health, to reach out to the homeless.”
Romeo pointed out that the suicide rate for U.S. veterans is 22 per day. “This is unacceptable,” he said. “We need to talk about this, loud and clear.” Romeo has also spoken in the past about the 20-year period after his time in Vietnam, which he spent “floating around” with no real direction. He eventually came to terms with his PTSD during middle age.
This publication last spoke with Romeo in November, during his “Art of War” exhibit at Bay Shore High School. The exhibit, which we covered in the article “Bay Shore alumnus presents ‘Art of War,’” published on Nov. 29, 2018, featured military paraphernalia from both American and Vietnamese forces, newspaper clippings from various U.S.-related conflicts over the recent decades, movie posters and vinyl records from the 1960s and early 1970s, and a wide range of Vietnam era-inspired artwork.
Next week, on June 8, Long Islanders will be able to meet Romeo at the Veteran’s Memorial at the head of Brightwaters Canal, at 11:30 a.m., before the final leg of his walk. He is expected to arrive at Bay Shore High School at 1 p.m.