As one of the longest living veterans diagnosed with 100% post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) related disabilities the cause and effect of this socially-crippling disease has consumed my life and fueled my work.
My name is Frank Romeo and the focus of my life’s work has been to educate returning veterans as well as young people in general about PTSD and its debilitating impact on individuals as well as society as a whole. My program “The Art of War” has traveled around the country in a spirit of truth, healing, and understanding post trauma. In the last thirty years I have traveled many miles and reached tens of thousands of people touched by this phenomenon. With the average suicide rate among veterans suffering from PTSD at twenty-two deaths per day, we must build awareness and subsequent action among the public and policymakers.
For fifty years PTSD has been the default characteristic of my life and so I began to find outlets for its release. The hands on discovery of art emerged as I began to create what would later be classified as art therapy. Realizing the importance of the relationship between art and post trauma I developed a system of education for others to follow. In the early nineties THE ART OF WAR was born as a learning tool bridging the gap between pre and post trauma. My approach was controversial and unique as I attempted to educate young people about PTSD before the onslaught of the traumatic event. I attempted to detox potential soldiers before they became traumatized by informing them of the endless possibilities of sudden impact trauma. My art collection not only depicts American history but it is also the emotional history of our country. It is the history of PTSD and art therapy as we know it today.
For almost thirty years THE ART OF WAR has travelled thousands of miles and touched tens of thousands of young veterans and students alike. It is with this understanding that my last project was successful as I attempted to yet further the understanding of this phenomenon. In 2014 I travelled back to Southeast Asia for seven weeks and recreated the war theater as I attempted to bridge the gap once again. I relived my war experiences by living in grass huts and visiting bombed out areas left from the war. While traveling the back country and dining with the former enemy I discovered their viewpoint of post trauma and how they dealt with the issue.
During each day for seven weeks I posted a daily Blog of my writings and photos of both my feelings and thoughts from fifty years ago and that of the present moment. Each entry contained elements of every aspect of war, emotions, thoughts, policy, and of course post trauma. My Blog Got My Second Wind was followed as a lesson plan by high school students in America. When it was technically feasible I would SKYPE Into the classroom as students posed questions in real time; our local news outlet Channel 12 NY, aired a few of these lessons.
PTSD has its own venue and agenda in my life as my urge to warn the world of its devastating dangers consumes me. Taking my controversial education techniques to the next level I now engage the “Walk With Frank” initiative. Dealing with PTSD over the past fifty years I’ve discovered a disconnect between the mental health of the veteran community and the homeless issue. We cannot address one without the other for in my opinion they are one and the same. Behind every homeless veteran is a PTSD laced story or traumatic event plaguing their life.
In 2019, as I celebrate my seventieth birthday, I will walk across New York State, living in homeless shelters, eating in soup kitchens, and visiting organizations frequented by our veterans. By choice I plan to live the life of our most fragile members of society. Veteran organizations, business people, our political leaders, and the general public can get on and off the trail at any point and walk with me in support. During this three-month 750 mile trek I will document the stories of veterans displaced by PTSD. These narratives will be the basis of a documentary film. In their own words, they will have the opportunity to share their experiences, their struggles, and their shattered dreams. As their narratives are woven together, along with commentary by experts in the PTSD field, the documentary film will not only build awareness of the crisis, but also shine a light on how to move forward in saving the lives and dignity of so many of our veterans. This project will benefit many lives and possibly change the way America looks at our homeless problem. This is a serious attempt to alter a mentality that is archaic and out of touch with a socially crippling disease.
Such an initiative requires support. Your backing is imperative and will help to uncover the truth so that we may truly begin to assist those in need. It is with the humblest of intentions that I ask for your support at this time. Please consider helping such a worthy cause.
Walk With Frank is a not-for-profit corporation (501 c 3 status pending) with the mission of utilizing a variety of media and initiatives to educate the public about the devastating impact of PTSD on military veterans in particular and society in general.
My work has received numerous praise and accolades. I have letters of recommendation from the Australian government for work with their veteran community, U.S. Congress, NYC Mayors’ Office as well as state and local governments. They are available upon request. Presently I am a member in good standing in the National Veterans Art Museum in Chicago where I talk to inner city students concerning the onset of PTSD, its diagnosis and treatment using art as a vehicle.