Gunnery Sgt. Albert Roman Jr. has no idea who nominated him for The Hispanic Coalition NY’s 2014 40 Under 40 Rising Latino Stars list.
“It’s a mystery,” the retired Marine said.
The award, presented March 22, took the 35-year-old Glenville resident by complete surprise.
“I’m very humble. I don’t do things to receive anything,” he said. “But when something like this happens, especially when I don’t even know that it’s happening, it’s pretty motivating and inspiring. That means that somebody’s watching what you’re doing and appreciates the things that you do.”
It’s no surprise that Roman has been noticed. A military veteran of 16 years, he served two tours of duty in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. Now a logistics coordinator for Integra Networks in Albany, he volunteers as the full-time program coordinator for the annual Marine Toys for Tots program serving upstate New York. He’s responsible for marketing, logistics, fundraising, finances and distribution for the program, which covers 14 counties.
For the 2013 drive, he worked with more than 200 local agencies to coordinate the distribution of toys, clothing and educational materials to 200,000 families.
“I pull probably 15-, 16-hour days from November to the end of December,” he estimated.
The Toys for Tots program is one the Brooklyn native said he can relate to. Money was tight when he was growing up in the projects, and he said he’s had a job since he was about 12 years old.
A better tomorrow
The program is important because it’s not just about presents under the Christmas tree; it can have an instant impact on a young life, he said.
“We can do research; we can do all these different things that impact someone’s life tomorrow. On Christmas Day, we impact these kids’ lives that day and show them that even though [there are] all of these trials and tribulations that they’re going through, there is a better tomorrow.
“And we did that. We single-handedly went into the community and have been able to show these kids there are people who care enough to take the time and show them that whatever they’re going through is not a permanent status in their lives.”
Roman’s children, Alyssa, 10, and Adrien, 7, help sort the toys at holiday time.
“I bring my kids as much as possible so they can understand that we are fortunate in our lives and what I’ve sacrificed for them,” he explained. “To me, that’s a better lesson than anything else.”
Roman was honored for his hard work and dedication during the Hispanic Coalition NY’s Rising Star of the Year Award last month at the New York State Museum in Albany.
Among 40 honorees
The coalition presents the 40 under 40 Rising Latino Stars awards to people who are leaders among their peers and who are predicted to continue to develop into distinguished community members.
David J. Prescott, president, CEO and CTO at Integra Networks, said Roman is deserving of the award. He called him “a Marine through and through.”
“He’s just very dedicated, not only to the corps, but to his family, his job and his country,” he said.