Pasadena Reserve Police Officer Rides Horse Across U.S. to Bring Attention to Agent Orange
Colt Romberger, a 33-year-old Iraq war veteran who now serves as a reserve police officer with the Pasadena Police Department, this week started a 183-day, 3,000-mile horse ride that will take him across the U.S. in a campaign to raise awareness about the plight of Vietnam War veterans suffering from the effects of exposure to Agent Orange.
The Police Department, said Chief of Police Phillip Sanchez, “couldn’t be more proud of him.”
Romberger travelled through Pasadena Thursday morning as he started the fourth day of the journey that will take him and his horse, Gus, all the way to Washington, D.C.
“What we’re trying to do is raise awareness for Vietnam veterans who are suffering from the effects of Agent Orange,” Romberger said. “There are thousands and thousands of veterans that are sick right now that served in Vietnam. A lot of them are dying in their 60s, and people just don’t know about it.”
During the Vietnam War, the U.S. military used Agent Orange as a herbicide to kill foliage making it easier for American troops to see through the dense jungle canopy.
Romberger’s father Clifford, also a lifelong horseman, died in September, 2015 from a brain disease caused by that Agent Orange. Clifford, an Elizabethville, Pennsylvania native, served in the U.S. Air Force in Danang for one year ending November, 1971.
Colt says his father was exposed to Agent Orange during missions in the jungles of Vietnam’s Quang Tri Province.
Clifford started experiencing the effects of Agent Orange later in life and suffered a major episode in 2012 when he lost his ability to walk. It was during his father’s sickness that Colt started thinking about riding a horse across America, something which his dad readily approved.
“I asked him if he wanted me to do this ride. I thought of it two years ago,” Clifford recalls. “He gave me a big thumbs up – he couldn’t speak anymore – and it’s been my mission ever since. We kicked it off May 1st and there’s been nothing but support.”
With lots of encouragement from other veterans’ organizations, Colt decided to proceed with the cross-country trip which he now calls Expedition Orange, training at least two other horses aside from Gus, and tapping an old friend of his dad’s, Kenny Reichel, to serve as the road foreman for the project. Reichel drives the truck where the team keeps supplies within reach.
Romberger has also set up a website to keep people informed of the team’s progress and guide them how they can help with donations for the benefit of veterans in need. He says donations will be used in three phases of the project.
“The first phase is for us to actually complete the ride – food, fuel… we have a truck that’s going to be pulling our supplies along the way,” Romberger says. “In the second phase, we’re trying to document the ride so it can be an educational tool not just for the American people but for the Vietnam veterans. And then the third phase, our surplus when this thing’s over is going to go all to the Vietnam veterans who are suffering. We want to be able to help them on a personal level.”
Colt Romberger entered active duty with the U.S. Air Force in 2007 and volunteered for deployment to Iraq in 2009. He was deployed to Forward Operating Base Loyalty in Baghdad which was clearly in the combat zone.
When he left active duty and returned to Glendale, he entered the Air Force reserve and joined the Pasadena Police Department as a reserve police officer.
With his Expedition Orange project, Romberger hopes to be able to honor the memory of his father and other Vietnam veterans who died without seeing proper care, and to help those who are still suffering.
“When they came back from Vietnam 40 plus years ago, they weren’t helped,” Romberger says of the veterans of the war. “They were spit on, they were called all kinds of names and they didn’t have the support of their country. We want to make sure they know today that the country loves them.”
To see Expedition Orange in progress, visit www.expeditionorange.com.