Despite its hardships on families and personal risks to life and limb, military service often is a family tradition. Nicholas Rorro is the fifth of six generations to serve in the military. His son Curtis Rorro is the sixth generation soldier, but if Nick has any say about it, he’ll be the last. Both soldiers are medically retired due to multiple physical injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.
A veteran of Desert Storm whose military career began in 1979, Rorro said he was medically retired by the Army in 1993 after repeated knee injuries, a brain injury caused by exposure to hazardous chemicals and PTSD. Two decades later, he didn’t try to stop his son from going in the Army but convinced him to be a vehicle mechanic, not an infantryman. When his son deployed, however, Curtis Rorro volunteered to be part of a quick-response team.
Curtis Rorro was injured in an explosion while his quick-response team was searching a building. In addition to a severe shoulder injury and shrapnel in his back, Nick Rorro said his son suffers from frequent migraines, memory loss and panic attacks. Curtis Rorro is married and has three children.
“I was in the infantry,” Nick Rorro said, noting some of his injuries were sustained in a Bradley Fighting Vehicle. “What I did and what I saw there did something to me. I had another son born while I was over there, and after I got back he drowned when he was only two years old. People don’t understand how combat affects other tragedies in your life. PTSD brings out feelings you’ve suppressed for years.”
He said he’s haunted by nightmares and hallucinations. He described one he experienced in a half-dream state while sitting on his porch. He said he saw an Iraqi man holding his 2-year-old son’s hand. Nick Rorro left the porch and limped out to his son only to have the vision disappear. In another nightmare, Rorro saw his late grandmother with his young son. He tried to go to them, but he said his grandmother told him he couldn’t touch them. She said if he did, he’d have to stay.
Nick Rorro, who now has had three strokes and walks with a cane due to partial paralysis, said PTSD has cost him two marriages. He lives alone. Even though he was able to earn a bachelor’s degree in history, he had his first stroke before he could start teaching. He said his second stroke left his left side paralyzed for eight months. Last year, stress and depression pushed Nick Rorro to attempt suicide.
“I was rated at 100 percent, then the VA dropped it down to 90 percent, then 80 percent,” he said. “It took me three years to get it back to 100 percent.”
Both father and son qualify for service dogs, but the VA stopped providing service dogs three years ago, he said. The Rorros now are asking the public for help in raising the funds needed to pay the $7,200 per service dog.
Rorro said a doctor at the Savannah VA Primary Care Clinic wrote a letter to Paws for Veterans Inc., asking the organization to help him get a service dog. He said he needs a dog to help him around the house, especially if he has another stroke.
According to its website, Paws for Veterans is a nonprofit organization that rescues, rehabilitates, trains and “re-homes” service dogs for injured veterans with PTSD, traumatic brain injuries and serious physical disabilities. Rorro said they are currently training a black Labrador for him and a pit-bull mix for his son. Rorro said his dog will be able to retrieve telephones, dropped items and medications; turn lights on and off; and even call 911 then bark until the operator is able to get the location of the call.
He said Hooters is conducting a car wash near its Savannah restaurant Saturday to help raise funds to pay for the service dogs. A website also has been set up to receive donations on his behalf. To help, go to fundrazr.com. In the “search” field, type “help Nick with service dog.” A picture of Rorro and the dog being trained for him will pop up.
Rorro said the risks for serious physical, mental and emotional injuries caused by military service and the endless struggle of dealing with bureaucracies like the Department of Veterans Affairs have led him to advise his stepson to go to college, not join the military. He doesn’t want his grandchildren to go through what he and his son have experienced, he said.