2016 Gasparilla Grand Marshal defying all odds

Posted at 4:05 PM, Jan 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-21 17:56:06-05

Have you ever met someone who changes your outlook on life? Who makes you understand that the word “impossible” just doesn’t exist if you don’t let it?

“We all got our trials and tribulations,” says Chief Warrant Officer Romulo “Romy” Camargo. “I just got a little more than everyone else.”

But don’t call Camargo an American hero, because he says it was his pleasure to serve this country for more than 20 years, retiring in 2015. A tour in Afghanistan has confined his body to a wheelchair, but it could not confine his kind heart.

"It's so gratifying when somebody comes in here with a spinal cord injury or a TBI and comes and works out at the center... comes back and tells me, 'Man, that was a good workout!'” says Camargo.

He and his wife have opened a first-of-its-kind, non-profit facility in Tampa called Stay In Step, in hopes of changing the lives of other veterans and people in the community who are dealing with spinal cord injuries. His selfless efforts in and around the community have gotten him not only noticed, but honored. The latest honor, being named the 2016 Grand Marshal of Gasparilla.

“I’m super excited. I've never been to a Gasparilla parade,” says Camargo. “This will be my first one. You know, because it gets kind of crazy. I like to have my drinks too... so I didn’t want to get crazy."

Seminole Hard Rock Tampa says it was an easy choice to get Camargo involved, considering he is a decorated war hero. 

“It’s an honor to announce that Chief Warrant Officer Camargo will be the Grand Marshal for the 2016 Seminole Hard Rock Gasparilla Pirate Fest and Gasparilla Parade of the Pirates. Chief Warrant Officer Camargo is a true American hero and someone we should all look up to with utmost respect for his service to our country,” says President of Hard Rock Tampa, John Fontana.

C.W.O. Camargo says it is part of his journey to continue to help those around him, even though it is still a full time job. He continues to raise money from the community and corporate sponsors to keep the doors open at the facility.

They also use a great deal of the money raised for the facility’s supplemental program. It helps to ensure patients who need care won’t be turned away because of an inability to pay the expensive rehabilitation bills.