Editor’s note: Iraq War Veteran Colt C. Romberger departs May 1 for a 183 day, 3,000 mile horse ride across America to bring awareness to Vietnam Veterans who suffer Agent Orange related disorders.
Colt Clifford Romberger was born September 23, 1984, in Elizabethville, Pennsylvania, where he grew up on his family’s farm and graduated from Upper Dauphin High School June 13, 2003. Due to his father, Clifford’s life long love of horsemanship, it was a natural evolution for Colt to gravitate to equally appreciate those wonderful animals. While Colt attended high school, he and Clifford, due to their special horse riding abilities, were hired to work on Mel Gibson’s movie, “Patriot”, to assist the actors and they both appeared in numerous scenes with Colt having a small speaking role. This unique experience inspired Colt, so after high school he attended the prestigious American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Hollywood graduating in 2005.
Forward Operating Base ‘Loyalty’
After the academy, Colt worked in security for Fox Studios until he joined the U.S. Air Force entering active duty May 1, 2007. He was sent to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas for Basic Training and then to San Angelo’s Goodfellow Air Force Base Intelligence Technical School for six months. Colt’s next assignment was at Fort Meade, Maryland, where he was stationed until he volunteered for deployment in June 2009 to Forward Operating Base “Loyalty” in Baghdad, Iraq. Due to routine barrages of enemy insurgent’s mortar fire and EID explosions, “Loyalty” was clearly in the combat zone. Colt is proud that he served with the famous 505th Parachute Regiment, 82nd Airborne, which became famous by their WWII exploits during Normandy’s D-day Invasion of June 6, 1944.
Colt served six months in Iraq and then returned to Fort Meade January 2010 until April 2011 when he left active duty and returned to Glendale, California. On May 1, 2011, he entered the Air Force active reserves and then he joined the Pasadena Police Department as a Reserve Officer, which is also his current status. Meanwhile, Colt’s Dad, a Vietnam Veteran, was having minor difficulties performing normal daily functions and his family noticed that he was gradually becoming a bit off. During the summer of 2011, Clifford had a car accident and that’s when he admitted something was very wrong. Colt’s family members took him to the VA Hospital in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, and it was discovered that Clifford had a brain disease called Progressive Supra Nuclea Palsea (PSP). Sadly, it took the VA one year to diagnose his disease and that it was caused by Agent Orange.
Clifford Romberger’s Vietnam Service
Clifford Romberger was born March 18, 1947 and also grew up in Elizabethville, Pennsylvania, and he graduated from Upper Dauphin High School (same as Colt) in 1965. He attended junior college for awhile but was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1967 but instead he enlisted in the Air Force and served in Danang, Vietnam for one year ending November 1971. Due to an order snafu, Clifford performed a myriad of duties beyond his job description (MOS) including perimeter guard duty, helicopter door gunner on downed pilot recovery missions, delivering payroll to off site base camps, etc. During those missions in the Quang Tri Province is when Clifford was exposed to Agent Orange. Clifford’s early days was spent around horses and cattle while working the family farm. He trained horses for military movies and was extensively involved numerous films, documentaries and re enacted events such as Civil War battles, etc. It’s safe to say that Clifford’s life long experiences had a lasting and positive impact on his son, Colt. Colt proudly noted that his Grandfather Homer Romberger served in WWII with U.S. Army Air Corps as a B-29 crew chief and his Great Grandfather Harold Romberger served in the U.S. Army’s 104th Mounted Calvary, 28th Division during the 1920-30’s.
On Father’s Day 2012, Clifford had a major episode resulting in losing his ability to walk so Colt departed Southern California to assist his Dad in all daily necessities. Clifford had to be placed in an assisted living facility but tragically, on September 24, 2015, Clifford passed away with Colt and his family at his side. During Clifford’s illness, Colt was visiting with his pal, Derek Larthey and out of the clear blue, Derek blurted out, “We should ride our horses across America! Over the years, Clifford always said he wanted to do that.” Though it was a passing thought, the next morning as Colt awoke, he realized that riding across America was the exact thing he wanted to do. Colt is devoted to accomplishing this ride, dubbed Expedition Orange, in memory of his Dad and all Vietnam Veterans who suffer from Agent Orange associated afflictions. Right then, he defined his mission, bring awareness to the Agent Orange dilemma. When Colt visited his Dad in June 2015, he mentioned his plan and asked his dad what he thought. Though Clifford was very weak and could barely speak, he gave Colt a hearty smile and a big thumb’s up!
Bring Awareness to Agent Orange
From that day forward, Colt devoted every ounce of energy to his new mission, starting with establishing a tax deductible 501 (c) 3 organization, seeking contributions, meeting with key Veteran organizations such as Vietnam Veterans of America, etc. Since August 2016, Colt has received 30 contributions totally $10, 590 towards his goal of $1,000,000 which would cover his expenses, including creating a documentary, with all surplus funds going to support Veterans who suffer Agent Orange related disorders. The national organization, Viet Nam Veterans of America has agreed to assist Colt in this noble endeavor. Colt’s ride across America is planned to take 183 days (same length as his 2009 Iraq tour of duty) and begins May 1, 2017, at Sunset Boulevard and the Pacific Coast Highway and ends at our Vietnam War Memorial in Washington D.C. Colt’s travel companion and driver is his Dad’s long time friend and close associate, Kenney Reichel, who will provide safety and needed supplies. Colt also plans to ride in New York City’s Veterans Day Parade. For proper horse care, Colt is carefully following the U.S. Cavalryman’s manual, “Cooke’s Manual”, published in 1862 by Brigadier General Philip Cooke.
For additional information and contributions, please go to www.expeditionorange.org.