Vietnam Veteran with PTSD bringing artwork display to Toms River HS North
Vietnam Veterans were not given the respect they deserved when returning home.
Many of them fought three battles, the Vietnam War, the PTSD that followed and the public shaming.
Frank Romeo was apart of a special forces group ambushed in August of 1969 where he was shot seven times.
He woke up months later in a hospital bed in Japan.
After a year of surgeries across the world,he was discharged from a hospital in Queens.
When he walked out in Queens, anti-war protesters spit in his face and called him a murderer and a baby killer.
The last few months of Romeo's service contract were spent in a military prison after he was arrested at West Point for drug use, "the year of surgeries and prescription drugs by Army Doctors led to addiction," according to Toms River North AP history teacher, Brett Smith, who says Romeo's story is like many others.
"Much of his generation just kind of went underground with their experiences because in the late 1960's, early 1970's...the United States was not really ready to discuss it," Smith said.
He says Romeo spent four decades trying to deal with the trauma and PTSD while also trying to raise a family of 7 children on Long Island.
In the 90's he privately turned to art and it changed him.
"One of his pieces ('Why') is now in the Veterans Museum in Chicago, part of a national treasure," Smith said. "It's more of a reflective piece as he looks back on his experience there (Vietnam) and tries to put it all in the context of present day."
To help deal with the pain and work through his PTSD, Romeo began art displays and public discussions.
"It's as much of a help for him to talk about it and get his story out, as it is for us to learn about what the veterans are tangling with today," Smith said.
Between the war overseas and the way he was treated outside of a hospital in Queens, his trauma and PTSD, the memories remain with him.
The event is FREE to attend and takes place from 5:00 - 10:00 pm at the RWJBH-Arena on Monday June 4.
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