Whether he was stationed in Alaska or deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, Michael Romero had bowling on his mind.

He would practice his footwork and visualize his release while walking between barracks. He said he jumped out of an airplane for a living, but his heart lied on the lanes, even if finding time to practice proved difficult during his seven years in the Army.

“I still considered myself bowling because I still lived it," Romero said. "It was still in my heart and still in my blood."

Romero said he left the military with a medical discharge in 2011 and now lives in Seaside, Calif.

Between starting a new job and raising his children, making time to compete remains a challenge. When he heard about a PBA regional taking place on Veterans Day weekend (Nov. 11-13), he knew he would have to be there.

“If there's any tournament that I want to do, it's going to be that one,” Romero said. “I hold true to my military service. I have jerseys that are camouflage or red, white and blue. I felt it was right when Josh announced it.”

Tournament director Josh Blanchard said the PBA Veterans Day Classic is the first PBA tournament to honor veterans and active duty service members and provide a discounted entry fee for them. He said it took about a year to plan and secure funding.

The event will be held just south of Seattle at Joint Base Lewis-McChord — the same base where Steve DeSordi said he last competed while on active duty.

DeSordi, 57, served in the Air Force for over 30 years before retiring in April 2020. In 1994, he said his base team from Alaska won the Military Classic in Las Vegas. He said he competes with Air Force members in the USBC Open Championships as well; at one point, he was organizing four teams each year.

He said the Air Force holds team trials each year, which determine a roster to send to the Armed Forces Championships to compete against the best bowlers form other military branches. He said he made the All-Air Force team three times, winning the individual championship in 2005 and shooting the first known 300 in the event’s history in 2006. 

DeSordi stopped bowling in 2016, but decided to return in January because he missed his friends in the bowling community. He bowled in a few PBA50 events as a non-member earlier this season, but loved the environment and competition so he joined the PBA earlier this month.

“Because it's a Veterans Day event and the PBA is going to recognize military members, I have to go,” DeSordi said. “(I feel like) it’s my duty to honor other military members and veterans.”

DeSordi joked he may be out-gunned by the kids competing, but will make the trip from his home in Oregon to Washington.

Entries will remain open for the PBA Veterans Classic until two weeks before the event or the roster is filled. Active duty and veteran military members looking to compete can email Blanchard ([email protected]) to receive the discount.

Blanchard said Friday’s Pro-Am is only open to military families who live on the base, which holds over 100,000 active duty and family members according to its website. He added there will be a women’s event running alongside the PBA regional.

Additionally, all veterans and active service members will be honored during the event. The two highest military members outside of the final cash spot will receive $275.

Learn more about the PBA Veterans Day Classic here.

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