Thursday, May 10, 2007

Vincenzo Romeo dies of injuries from I.E.D.

Staff Sgt. Vincenzo Romeo's family had a saying about their animated youngest son: "There is the story and there is Enzo's version."

Enzo's version meant long, elaborate, funny and entertaining.

"The true story is the one that gets lost, because his version is always better," his older brother Carmelo said Wednesday. "He loved to make people laugh."

Romeo, 23, was killed in Iraq on Sunday when an improvised explosive device struck his vehicle in the eastern Iraqi province of Diyala. Five other members of his Stryker Brigade Combat Team were also killed in the attack, along with a Russian photojournalist. On Wednesday, at his family's home on a quiet street off Route 46, Romeo's family consoled themselves with stories about Vincenzo. All but Carmelo declined to be interviewed, but pieces of conversation wafted out of the room where they sat: "No, that was his confirmation," said someone, recalling his participation in the Roman Catholic sacrament.

"It's a form of coping," said Carmelo, 31. The family received news of Vincenzo's death Sunday, but "it just doesn't seem real," he said.

Vincenzo was born in Calabria, Italy, to Saverina and Antonio Romeo.. His family immigrated to the United States in 1986, and he, Carmelo, and a third brother, Bruno, grew up in Fair View and later Lodi. Romeo was a permanent resident and planned to become a United States citizen, Carmelo said.

"As a family of Italian immigrants, we are especially proud of our hero, Vincenzo, for his patriotism, bravery and service to the United States," the family said in a written statement.

After graduating from Lodi High School in 2001, Romeo attended Kean University in Union for a year before enlisting in the military.

An infantryman with the 2nd Infantry Division and serving in a Stryker Brigade Combat Team, Romeo was deployed to Iraq from November 2003 to November 2004. He began a second tour in June 2006.

His unit was initially scheduled to return from combat in June, but their tour was extended until October, his brother said.

He was last home on leave in February. Romeo planned to marry his fiancee, Amanda Anderson of Tacoma, Wash., upon his return from Iraq, and was interested in a career with the state police, said Carmelo.

Christian Licalzi, a friend of Romeo's, said Vincenzo loved to barbecue with friends and family -- "steaks and venison, the best meats."

"We would sit there for hours just barbecuing and having a good time," Licalzi said.

Licalzi said his friend decided to go into the military because he felt it was his calling.

"He felt that it would strengthen him as a person. That's a decision he made and a decision we all respected," he said.

From the Herald News