VVAW: Vietnam Veterans Against the War
About VVAW
Contact Us
Image Gallery
Upcoming Events
Vet Resources
VVAW Store


Vietnam Veterans Against the War Mourns the Passing of Long-Time Member and National Leader Barry Romo


[Printer-Friendly Version]

For Immediate Release: Vietnam Veterans Against the War Mourns the Passing of Long-Time Member and National Leader Barry Romo
Romo was a member of VVAW for over 50 years, having participated in many of the organization’s major events. His military service and activism were featured in The History Channel’s 2011 documentary “Vietnam in HD.”

May 6, 2024
Contact: Roberto Clack, Media Coordinator
roberto@chicagoworkerscollaborative.org, 312.450.1972

Chicago: It’s with great sadness that Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) announces the passing of long-time member and former national coordinator Barry Romo, who died on May Day at age 76 in Chicago. During his decades organizing with VVAW, Romo participated in and helped organize some of VVAW’s most significant events, including the Winter Soldier Investigation in Detroit in 1971, the renowned Operation Dewey Canyon III medal return ceremony in Washington, DC, in 1971, and The Last Patrol at the 1972 Republican National Convention in Miami.

“I have known and worked with Barry Romo for over three decades opposing war,” said Joe Miller, a Navy veteran and retired professor at the University of Illinois. “Along with losing a close friend, his passing represents an enormous loss for the anti-war veteran’s movement, and Barry was a critical figure in the history of veterans opposing wars they had participated in.”

After graduating high school, Barry enlisted in the US Army in 1966. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant upon graduation from Officer Candidate School (OCS) at 19. He was sent to Vietnam in 1967 and served there until May 1968, first as an Infantry Platoon Leader and subsequently as a First Lieutenant and Battalion Staff Officer. He was a participant in the January and February 1968 Tet Offensive. He was awarded the Combat Infantry Badge and the Bronze Star with “V” Device “for heroism in connection with military operations against a hostile force.” In May 1968, his nephew Robert was killed at Dong Ha, and Romo escorted the body home to Rialto, ending his military service in Vietnam. He then commanded an Infantry Vietnam Training Company at Fort Ord, California, before being honorably discharged in January 1969.

Romo would return to Vietnam in December 1972, this time to Hanoi with Christmas packages for 535 prisoners of war, along with Telford Taylor, a chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg War Trials, and the pacifist singer Joan Baez. He lived under Nixon’s infamous Christmas bombing for its entire eleven days. The only combat veteran to have fought in the South while later living under bombings in the North (except POWs), he documented the bombings of foreign embassies, hospitals, workers’ houses, and even POW camps. Baez would record the album Where Are You Now, My Son? based on their experience. Years later, Romo’s military service and activism were featured in the History Channel’s 2011 documentary Vietnam in HD.

Romo’s work in the 1970s was the start of a lifetime of organizing against war and in support of greater veterans’ rights and benefits. This included being a proponent of increased access to veterans’ healthcare, and work on other veterans’ issues including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Agent Orange exposure, homelessness, and decent benefits for all veterans regardless of discharge type. In 1989, he went to the Philippines to document the abuse of child prostitutes by US service members, along with human rights violations by the US-trained and funded Philippine military. In 1999, he traveled to Colombia to investigate and document a massacre at the village of Santa Domingo on the northern border. He visited the village in the contested countryside and found proof that the Colombian military had used US helicopters and bombs to kill 19 people—including 7 children—in cold blood.

Along with serving as a VVAW National Coordinator for over four decades, Romo was a former Branch President of his facility for the National Postal Mail Handlers Union, AFL-CIO, until he retired in 2009. As part of this work, he was a union steward who staunchly defended the rights of his coworkers.

Romo played a critical role supporting Iraq Veterans Against the War, founded in 2006 (now called About Face: Veterans Against The War). “While I was deployed I became disillusioned with the war. When I got home I got active in the anti-war movement,” said Aaron Hughes, a former Illinois Army National Guard member who served in Kuwait and Iraq in 2003/2004. “Barry welcomed and mentored me. He was family. He supported so many veterans helping us process our experiences and traumas. He helped us take action to end the war. He was there for so many of us, for so many events. I am forever grateful for the way he tirelessly supported veterans of my generation.” Romo was also dedicated to speaking at local high schools and universities about his military service and anti-war activism. He frequently spoke at Chicagoland Public Schools at the invitation of local teachers.

Romo worked at the Chicago Homeless Veterans Standdown for over 25 years where, twice a year, he volunteered, along with many other VVAW members, to serve food, scrub pots, and clean the kitchen. As a patient of the Jesse Brown VA hospital, Romo also supported labor rights and union organizing there. This included supporting the union's National Nurses United (NNU), the American Federation of Governmental Employees (AFGE), and the Services Employee International Union (SEIU).

Romo is survived by his two children, Kyle Copeland and Jessi O’Reilly-Jones, and ex-wife Alynne Romo. VVAW has created a guestbook for Romo, and a memorial for him is planned for Memorial Day at 11:00 AM in Chicago at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) is a national veterans' organization that was founded in New York City in 1967 after six Vietnam vets marched together in a peace demonstration. It was organized to voice the growing opposition among returning servicemen and women to the still-raging war in Indochina, and grew rapidly to a membership of over 30,000 throughout the United States as well as active duty GIs stationed in Vietnam. Through ongoing actions and grassroots organization, VVAW exposed the ugly truth about US involvement in Southeast Asia and our first-hand experiences helped many other Americans to see the unjust nature of that war.

Commentary on VVAW.org: