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Local breakfast club unites area veterans
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ROMEO member Don Tackett, center, talks with Mark Smith, right, and Ronnie Abercrombie during a recent group meeting at Chick-fil-A in Cumming. - photo by Jim Dean
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ROMEO breakfasts are at 9 a.m. Fridays at Chik-fil-A in the Lanier Crossing shopping center in Cumming.

The Vietnam Veterans of America meets at 6 p.m. the first Monday of each month at Golden Corral.

For more information, call Billy Darby, chapter president, at (770) 889-4604 or Warren Pennington at (706) 974-8809.
For a group of local Vietnam veterans, being a Romeo isn’t necessarily about romance.

The guys meet Friday mornings at Chik-fil-A in Cumming for their weekly ROMEO, or Retired Old Men Eating Out, breakfast.

A majority of them live in Forsyth County, but some make the trip from Dawson County.

“This gives us a chance to get together, get to know each other better and shoot the bull,” said Dawsonville resident Warren Pennington.

Over coffee and biscuits, they talk about a variety of topics from the weapons they used in combat and the places they’ve been to the friends they made.

“We try not to dwell on the bad stuff, but the funny stuff. There’s a lot of that,” Pennington said.

They also talk about issues stemming from current wars going on in the Middle East that affect veterans today.

Pennington said those who served in Vietnam don’t want “another group of veterans to be treated the way we were when we came home.”

He and fellow ROMEO Bob Bursby were soldiers in Vietnam. Another member of the group, Don Tackett, served as a Marine. After a brief stint out of the military, Tackett enlisted in the Army and later retired as a command sergeant major.

“I failed miserably as a civilian,” he said.

Bursby and Pennington are also members of the Vietnam Veterans of America. A local group has started meeting once a month in Cumming and they recently recruited enough veterans to start a chapter.

Bursby said they’re hoping to enlist more members.

He said the group participated this year in Cumming’s Independence Day parade, and the applause they received from the crowd was heartwarming.

“It’s not a reception I think any of us were used to,” Bursby said. “The consensus afterward was that we were all looking forward to next year’s parade.”

He said once the local chapter is up and running, their main focus will be on helping local veterans from all eras.

At last month’s meeting, for instance, they discussed sending care packages to soldiers in Afghanistan.

Bursby said the breakfasts provide an opportunity for veterans to talk about their experiences and they always welcome new faces.

“They know exactly what I’m talking about,” Bursby said. “My son, daughter and wife can have empathy, but they don’t know. It’s a special bond. We can talk to each other and know.”