LAKE CITY — Quiet, but clever.
When Gary Romesha and Martishia Romesha Rogers, the parents of Clinton Romesha, who will receive the Medal of Honor in White House ceremonies on Feb. 11, talk about their son, it’s with suppressed but obvious pride.
Although working out details has been frustrating and complicated, Romesha and Rogers, along with several other family members, are gladly anticipating the trip to Washington, D.C. to see their son honored
“I’m going to be in the background so I don’t need to get nervous,” said Romesha from his Lake City home. Much like his son, he seemingly takes a low-key approach, sincerely explaining, “It’s going to be a great opportunity to be back with our children. Whether it’s the Medal of Honor or a third grade reading award, you’re proud of your kids.”
Romesha and Rogers, who were married 29 years before divorcing, have five children and 12 grandchildren. They’ll be joined by the parents and other relatives of Clint’s wife Tammy Romesha, who also has roots in Surprise Valley, for the ceremonies.
“To me it’s a big step because some days I don’t see two people,” said Rogers, who lives in nearby Vya, a roadside stop in Nevada that serves as an outpost for the Wasco County road department and mailing address for neighboring ranches, including one that’s been in her family for years.
Rogers is flying to Washington, D.C., with Preston, one of her sons, to help calm her nerves.
“I won’t be comfortable but it’s worth it for my son’s sake.”
Both say Clint was raised like his siblings — brothers Travis and Preston, and sisters Tanya Howell and Cami Wakelin — with a strong work ethic. Life for the family has never been easy. Gary Romesha has a small ranch with 20 cows and a sawmill. He’s known for fixing windmills, doing custom farming and has worked for local road departments, among other tasks.
“I’d try anything I could make a dollar at,” he said.
When not raising their children, Rogers worked for veterinarians, cleaned houses, helped with the ranch and took on other jobs.
“That’s just the way it is for kids in this valley. There’s no sitting around,” Romesha said, noting he and his former wife didn’t give their children allowances. “If they wanted money, they earned it.”
“He was kind of like his grandpa,” Rogers said, comparing Clint to her father, Aury Smith. “He was quiet and a thinker. And when he said something, people listened.”
Rogers said Clint, unlike her other sons, never pestered her or his father about wanting his own car. When she asked him why, he told her, “ ‘Well, mom, I watched the other kids … I saw they needed a job so they could pay for a car. I’ve got something better. I’ve got a girlfriend who has a car.’ ”
Clint was so low-key that when he enlisted in the Army in September 1999 he didn’t have a driver’s license.
“He could drive a tank, but he couldn’t drive a car,” Rogers said, laughing.
After a 2009 battle in Afghanistan that led to his pending Medal of Honor, the family knew no details. They learned about the battle from the book, “The Outpost,” that details Clint’s exploits.
“That was more than what we knew,” said Diane Romesha, Gary’s wife. “He told his dad he took a firing position.”
“As his mother, I wish he didn’t have to go through all that,” Rogers said. “It’s always in the back of your mind that you don’t want to get that call.”
Rogers and Diane Romesha, Clint’s stepmother, believe it helps that Gary served in Vietnam during an Army tour from 1969 to 1971. Diane said when Clint visits, he and Gary have sometimes gone out for hours.
Romesha doesn’t discuss what he and his son talk about.
“If he wants to talk,” he explained, “I’m here to listen.”