By K. Houston Waters, USAG Natick Public AffairsOctober 29, 2018
Natick, Mass. -- Soldiers and civilians gathered at Natick Solider Systems Center (NSSC) October 26 to honor the life and memory of Pfc. Roman Centeno, Jr. Roman, a 21 year-old medical logistics specialist for the United States Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine (USARIEM), was killed in an automobile accident October 10 in Natick, Mass.
The commander of USARIEM, Col. Sean O'Neil, spoke to Roman's dedication to the Army and his positive influence on the organization. "Roman quickly made friends with many people in the organization. He was vibrant, friendly, and well-liked. But being well-liked isn't what makes a good soldier, and it won't be his only legacy. A good soldier is competent: PFC Centeno was that. He was good at his job and reliable. But more importantly, the measure of a good soldier -- the measure of any person actually -- is his character and commitment to his fellow soldiers, to his friends, and to his team. Today we reflect on memories of Roman. We inherit his example. An example of service to his nation. And more importantly, service to others. And that's a legacy that we all hope to live up to."
Roman's father, Roman Centeno, Sr., who made the journey from Chicago, Il., to Natick, was in attendance for the remembrance.
Addressing Centeno Sr. directly, O'Neil said "each of us feels a great sense of loss and sadness. But as we mourn, please know our thoughts have been, and will continue to be, with you and your family. We want you to know that we love your son. We miss him. We honor him. But our words are inadequate. So more than words, today we offer our memories in the hope that they bring you comfort. And that in those memories you find peace. May his memory live forever in your heart as he will live in ours. Roman Centeno Jr. shares a great name with his father. And it's a name that will forever be a part of our organization."
During the remembrance, Roman's friends and co-workers shared personal stories about their brother-in-arms. "He didn't sweat the small stuff. Or even the big stuff at times. I kind of admired him for that," said 1st Lt. Robert Hugenberger, deputy chief of logistics, USARIEM. "He always found a way to make me smile or laugh."
"He had this amusing habit around my office," Hugenberger continued. "He would often approach my office door, out of sight from the hall. I could hear him coming, his footsteps, but as he got close to the door he would slow down, and sort of . . . creep . . . to the border of the office door. After about ten seconds of silence I would see his head peek around the corner at me, just a floating head in the doorframe. He would see me looking at him and it would make him smile. Which would then make me smile and laugh. It sort of reminds me of how my four year old would try to sneak up on me and scare me at home. He did it all the time. I ask him once why he did that, and he said he liked to make sure I wasn't on the phone, or have someone in my office, as to not disturb me. I told him he didn't have to do that. But he did it anyway. I think he just enjoyed that it made me smile."
"I found myself stuck somewhere, almost midnight because my usual means of transportation was either an Uber or Lyft," recounted Spc. Colin O'Neill, USARIEM. "Everyone else was asleep as it was a weeknight. I called and messaged a few people, but he was the only one that said I'm coming to get you, without hesitation. Instead of calling an Uber for me, he came in an Uber himself to pick me up. Ever since that day my respect for him amplified. I cannot forget what he did. It was very bad weather at the time. He did so much for me. I just wish I got to do more for him."
"I really wish, for those of you who didn't get to spend time with him, I really wish you had the opportunity to," said O'Neill. "He was such a good person. Too good. And I'll forever miss him and never forget about him.
Following Roll Call, the USARIEM Color Guard performed a volley-gun salute.
Roman was born June 11, 1997 in Chicago, Il. One of three sons, Roman graduated from Zapata Academy in 2011, and Little Village Lawndale High School in 2016 before enlisting in the United States Army later that summer.
After successfully completing Basic Combat Training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., Roman attended Advanced Individual Training at Joint Base San Antonio, Tx., where he was awarded the Military Occupation Specialty of 68J -- Army Medical Logistics Specialist. Roman then served with the 563rd Medical Logistics Company at Camp Carroll, South Korea, before being assigned to USARIEM in January 2018.
Roman's awards include the Army Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Medal, and Korea Defense Service Medal.