CLASS OF 1976: Vincent J. Perrone ’76

Vincent J. Perrone ’76 credits his success to the support of his family: his wife, Debra, and their children, Francesca, Vincent, Ricky, and Samuel ’17
(pictured with his dad on the Hill), who is now in Norwich University’s master of public administration program.

Providing Veterans A New Way Forward.

When Lieutenant Colonel Vincent J. Perrone ’76 was a boy, he wanted nothing more than to be an Air Force pilot. He felt that much closer to his dream when, during a campus visit with his father, he fell in love with Norwich University. “I knew it was where I was going to spend my next four years,” said Perrone from his office in Worcester, Mass. Now retired from the Air Force, he is still very much committed to service, as president and CEO of Veterans Inc., the largest support-services agency in New England for veterans and their families who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

At Norwich, Perrone majored in English with a minor in psychology. He enjoyed participating in sports, performing with the Regimental Band, playing rock-and-roll guitar, and acting—a bit—with the Pegasus Players.

Perrone considers Colonel John Wadsworth, commandant of cadets, the most memorable of his Norwich mentors. “He never talked down to us and helped cadets understand where we might be going wrong, and worked with us on how to fix it,” he reflects. “At Norwich, we learned not give up in the face of adversity. No excuses!”

That advice proved mission-critical when, during flight training, young Second Lieutenant Perrone damaged his inner ear, leading to his grounding. The knowledge that he couldn’t fly was a crushing blow. But with Colonel Wadsworth’s words in his ears, he seized the opportunity to pursue a non-flying position.

He became an acquisition officer, working on multi-billion-dollar C4I projects, including the Department of Defense Worldwide Military Command and Control Information System, the precursor to the Internet. He served on the air staff at the Pentagon and was assigned to the Joint Task Force as a logistics officer in preparation for Operation Desert Storm. Later, he helped develop the Presidential Partnership for Peace Initiative, providing security assistance to Eastern European Bloc countries.

Around that time, Perrone learned from a news report that 450,000 veterans were homeless in America, and as many as 1.2 million veterans slept on the streets on any given night. “That hit me hard,” he said. “To be a homeless person in America is a tragedy, but to be a homeless veteran who served honorably, to me, that was a disgrace. So I promised myself to get involved.”

Reassigned to Hanscom Air Force Base, he learned that some Vietnam veterans had gotten together to start an emergency shelter. He joined them, and in 1993, became the president of the board of Veterans Inc., which opened its doors to nine homeless veterans. “To date, we have helped nearly 80,000 men, women and children,” Perrone said of the agency, which became the first of its kind nationwide to have a women’s program, and later a women and children’s program. Most recently, they opened a level-three clinical stabilization program for veterans and non-veterans struggling with opioid addiction: another first in the nation.

According to Perrone, many of those they serve have a very small network of family and friends, so if they lose a job, or suffer from mental illness, physical disabilities, PTSD, or drug or alcohol addiction, it can lead to homelessness. The non-profit Veterans Inc. can offer services up to two years and has an 80 to 85 percent success rate. With a “no excuse” philosophy, Colonel Vin Perrone has always found a way to step up, take responsibility, and make a difference. –Carla Beecher

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