Northwest

Paralympian and U.S. Army veteran Rico Roman honored on Veterans Day

Northwest

US Army SSG Rico Roman is one of America’s greatest warriors.

Inspired by the service of several family members, Roman joined the military to serve our country in 2001, where he eventually became a gunner and squad leader in his first five years.

But on Feb 22, 2007, while on his third tour of Iraq, Roman’s life was changed forever.

While Roman and his team were on a convoy mission in Iraq, their Humvee was blasted by a roadside bomb. Roman was rushed into surgery following the explosion, where the doctors were able to save Roman’s legs, but he eventually made the decision to have his left leg amputated above the knee after a year of agonizing pain.

“If you’ve ever been like punched in the stomach or had the wind knocked out of you, that’s what it felt like,” Roman told the TODAY show on NBC.

While the Portland native was going through extensive therapy, he was introduced to the field of sled hockey in 2008 by Operation Comfort, a group that focuses on helping wounded and injured service members in recovering and getting involved in the community.

On the battlefield, Roman thrived as a warrior, unrelenting and persistent in protecting his country. On the ice, Roman excelled as one of the country’s best sled hockey players. He eventually got his shot to represent the U.S.A. in the Paralympics, where he took home gold medals for the red, white and blue in 2014 and 2018.

 

Following the games, Roman, in search of adaptive housing, discovered that a special home was being built just for him. The Gary Sinise Foundation, created by actor Gary Sinise most known for his role as Lieutenant Dan in 1994’s Forrest Gump, had chosen Roman and his family for a specially adapted smart home.

“I honestly felt like I hit the lotto,” Roman said. “I couldn’t believe this was really going to happen and then I got the yes from him.”

By the end of this year, 70 specially adapted smart homes will be completed or underway through the Gary Sinise Foundation.

In July 2020, the Roman family moved into their new house in Brush Prairie, Wash. Roman hasn’t gotten an opportunity to thank Sinise personally for his selfless gift, due to the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing, but the pair have stayed in touch and formed a special relationship.

“They’re my friends,” Sinise said. “They mean a lot to me and I feel so privileged to know somebody like Rico.”

On Veteran’s Day, we honor all the military members like Roman for all that they have sacrificed for our country. Roman is forever grateful for the men and women who have fought alongside him.

“I wouldn’t be here without my buddies,” Roman said. “They’re the ones that saved my tail that day.”