Jeffrey A. Romero is dedicated to helping veterans, and thanking the men and women of the United States armed forces for their service.
Prior to an interview in late May at Panera Bread at Mashpee Commons, he noticed an elderly gentleman wearing an 11th Airborne Division sweatshirt. Immediately, the very outgoing Mr. Romero engaged in conversation with the man, applauding his efforts for serving in the formation, which was first activated during World War II.
That is just the type of guy he is.
The Fort Collins, Colorado, native, who himself served nine years as an Army infantry officer and 17 years as special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, now calls Falmouth, where he lives with his wife and young daughter, his home. He recently moved here from Albuquerque, New Mexico.
In late February, Mr. Romero was named executive director of the Cape & Islands Veterans Outreach Center, and he has ambitious plans for expanding the reach and service offerings of the organization.
These plans include a commitment to open the long-delayed Veterans Grace Outreach Center at the former Doreen Grace Brain Center in New Seabury by Veterans Day in November. The Mashpee center will initially focus on assisting veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and traumatic brain injury by offering a wide array of alternative medicine and holistic therapies.
Since receiving the deed to the property nearly two years ago, the opening of the Seanest Drive facility had been delayed several times due to a devastating flood, which caused approximately $100,000 in damage to the uninsured property, as well as lack of funding, contractor issues, and staff turnover.
“It’s been one stroke of bad luck after another,” Mr. Romero said, adding that until the Mashpee location opens, similar services are being offered in Hyannis.
Mr. Romero’s goal as the “go to” guy for veterans services on the Cape is to make a difference in the lives of veterans, especially those who are readjusting to life after returning from war.
“I’m offering a hand up, not a handout,” Mr. Romero said.
Already, near the organization’s headquarters in Hyannis, there are two homes that have been established to provide housing for homeless veterans. At this time, 13 of the 16 available beds are full, and the outreach center’s housing advocate visits the NOAH shelter in Hyannis on a weekly basis to determine if there are additional homeless veterans who qualify for rooms. Mr. Romero said that, unfortunately, there are some veterans who do not qualify for the housing, due to prior criminal history. But Mr. Romero has a plan to help them get back on their feet, as well.
“I’m meeting with Jeff Perry of the Barnstable County Sheriff’s Department this week to see if we can help veterans who suffer from PTSD and brain injuries. I would like to have these veterans released on probation, moved into a halfway house that we would establish, and, ultimately receive treatment at the Grace Center,” Mr. Romero said, noting that the organization has already secured a van to transport patients to and from Hyannis to New Seabury.
While the Grace Center in New Seabury will initially offer Cape veterans an alternative to traveling to veterans hospitals in Brockton and West Roxbury, Mr. Romero said that assistance will not necessarily be limited to local residents.
“If someone wants to fly here from Seattle, and we can help them, then we will,” he said.
Mr. Romero said he was surprised at how many people, especially veterans, are in need of help on Cape Cod, but that only so much can be done without the help of the public.
“We’re soliciting donations all of the time,” he said
Mr. Romero gets much of his inspiration from his father, Captain Daniel J. Romero, now 77, who served in the Vietnam War.
The winner of the annual “border war” football game between Colorado State University—where the younger Mr., Romero played defensive back—and the University of Wyoming does not get a trophy, but a bronze boot worn by Captain Romero in Vietnam. Each year, during the game, the boot is guarded by the ROTC unit of the past year’s winning school.
Thanks to college football schedulers, Mr. Romero will not have to travel far off-Cape to see his beloved Colorado State Rams play this fall.
“I’ll be on the sidelines when Colorado State plays Boston College in Chestnut Hill on September 27,” he said.