The two things Colt Romberger and his father had most in common, the ones that made them best friends as well as father and son, were a deep affection for horses and an equally deep pride in having served their country in times of war. So when Cliff Romberger, a Vietnam War veteran and onetime wrangler of horses on Hollywood film sets, died in 2015 of a brain disease doctors attributed to his exposure to the chemical defoliant Agent Orange, his son knew there was but one way to honor him: He would saddle up his horse and ride it from the Pacific Ocean to the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, per the AP. On Monday, the 32-year-old Iraq war veteran will begin that journey through big-city streets, across desert sand, and over mountain ranges and prairies, aboard a handsome gray-and-black 4-year-old quarter horse named Gus.
Along the way he hopes to accomplish several things: raise money for veterans causes through a nonprofit foundation he's established, tell the public about the devastating, deadly effect the use of Agent Orange is having on thousands of aging bodies of Vietnam veterans and, with stops at town halls across the country, let those veterans know they have not been forgotten. "I've spoken to so many Vietnam vets, and they've emailed me. Sometimes it breaks my heart hearing their stories," he says in a voice momentarily choked with emotion. A friend of his late father, Kenny Reichel, will drive a truck carrying supplies and pulling a horse trailer while scouting for places man and horse might bed down for the night. The journey's website is here. (More Agent Orange stories.)