As we close in on the last few days of the election season, the KUNM News Team has been hitting the streets, trying to get a sense of what's propelling New Mexicans to cast their votes.
“My name's Romeo Rocha…”
Romeo says when his mom was pregnant with him, his dad took her to see Romeo and Juliet, hence the name.
Romeo: “Yeah when you are younger and everyone is making fun with you it seems like a curse but after awhile you get used to it.”
Curse or not, Romeo's story, even though it's not Shakespearian, does begin as a bit of a tragedy. As a young man he married, fathered two beautiful daughters, but somehow he kept having these run ins with the law. It was the year 2000…
Romeo: “I was getting into a lot of trouble, I was going to jail a lot and one day when I got out of jail my oldest daughter, know normally she would come up to me and hug me but this time she just stayed holding her moms hand and the first thing she asked me was "are you going back to jail dad?" and that's when I knew I had to change my life, so I made the drastic decision to go join the Navy.”
The structure and stability that the military touted seemed to fit the bill of drastic-lifestyle-change that Romeo was searching for. So in late 2000 Romeo completes boot camp, and in 2001 he moves his family to Norfolk Virginia, to the largest navel station in the world. Everything seems cool when the twin towers are struck on 9/11.
Romeo: “I mean things changed really, really fast after 9/11.”
Rita: “Can you give me some examples?”
Romeo: “Well the immediate effect was that I couldn't sleep cause i had my family there in Virginia with me and you know one of the planes had gone down at the Pentagon pretty close to the navel base so my immediate thoughts were "we're probably gonna be next."
Quickly, workups were done for the USS Austin to set sail. Battle groups from the Marines were put on board, as well as Marines vehicles, and they took off towards the Middle East. And everything is going great, there's a strong sense of purpose pulsating throughout the ship. But when they pull into Thesolanaki, a small island of our Greek allies…
Romeo: “We couldn't get, we didn't get, they didn't let you off the ship and outside of the gates to go explore the city because the people there were protesting us. And I thought that was odd, I was like why is this country protesting us? And I was like well that sucks, you know, I really wanted to check this place out.”
Romeo says that it was then he started wondering, why are these people protesting us?
Romeo: “But that's when it hit me, so ohhhh, were over here, about to invade a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 and that's what they're protesting. The message was pretty clear. To the rest of the world it was obvious, but of course to the troops and everybody inside the military they keep everybody that doesn't need to know hushed about what's going on and I was just doing what I was told.”
Romeo continued to do his job. He got transferred from the USS Austin to a ship called the Avenger. And he served his full term. But when it came time to reenlist, he opted out.
Romeo: “You know I support our troops and their families because they're the ones that are going through, you know for a lack of better term, they are going through the crap. I just do not support some of the things that they get pretty much forced to do, without question. Its one of the um unspoken rules of being in the military, you don't say s*&. It doesn't matter what the order is , you do it.”
Now, Romeo is a small business owner, and when we got to talking politics, he wasn't shy to share his opinion.
Romeo: “This year, I guess I still have kind of a Bush hang over.”
Romeo voted for Bush, so there's a level of ownership in that whole hangover statement.
Romeo: “I remember, you know, what he did, I remember what happened during that administration and I understand that the reason we're suffering so much right now and going through this so called recession is because of what was done, you know, during those 8 years and…”
There's two things that are really on Romeo's mind this season. “I'm leaning more towards Obama then Romney but it's tough because you know you've got this guy who can supposedly fix the economy because he's got this business experience but you look at what he did as a business man and you wonder what???? This guy shipping jobs overseas or whatever. And I don't like that.”
And then there's the issue of foreign policy…
Romeo: “You got this Republican candidate that has a Vice Presidential candidate. Neither one of them have experience with foreign policy.”
Romeo feels that at least with the Obama administration, they've got Biden, who has a sturdy, weathered hand when it comes to foreign policy.
Romeo: “And he's got Hillary, she's definitely a strong strong perso”
A few days after the interview, Romeo hit the polls ,for some early voting…
Romeo: “Time to fill in the bubbles, I guess we'll see how it all turns out.”
Romeo said in between our interview and the moment he cast his ballot, he did do additional research on the candidates , just to make sure. But he went with his original gut instinct, voted for four more years.