A 30-year Army career does not solely define Victor Rosello. In fact, the now-retired U.S. Army intelligence officer is constantly exploring new interests and devoting himself to passion projects. Whether he is taking classes at the College of William and Mary, singing in his church’s choir, hiking the Camino de Santiago, playing Irish or Afro-Brazilian music at local venues, or photographing Colonial Williamsburg, Rosello’s desire to learn and grow guides him through life.
Rosello said that his Army years began with his father, who was a career military Army musician. It was through his father that Rosello was exposed to the world of music at a young age; however, his personal love for music developed later.
“I think it was through him I started piano classes and things like that,” Rosello said. “But back then, when I was growing up, the Army to me was just parades and concerts; that’s what he did, he was a band master. I knew somehow that music was always going to be a part of me, but it didn’t really manifest itself until later in life.”
Initially, Rosello did not want to join his college’s Army ROTC program, let alone pursue a career in the Army. However, after a year in the program, he was sold. Rosello said that ROTC helped him to overcome his severe shyness. He knew he wanted to pursue a military career but breaking the news to his father came with some pushback, as his father warned him of the difficulties of a life in the Army.
Rosello acknowledged the challenges that come with a military career, such as the routine moving and packing and unpacking of boxes. In 30 years, Rosello said that he moved 17 times and experienced five combat tours, including Operations Just Cause and Desert Storm and stints in El Salvador and Colombia. Rosello received his master’s degree from the University of Chicago in Latin American studies.
“So, eventually all that came to an end,” Rosello said. “The Army paid for my master’s degree in Latin American studies. I became a Latin American specialist. That’s part of why ended up in El Salvador and Colombia and Panama because of that Latin American background.”
While in the Army, Rosello wrote and published 16 articles capturing his experiences to share with his peers. His interest in writing followed him after he retired, to Fort Monroe, where he took a job as a writer. In 2010, he proceeded to write and self-publish a novel, “East of the Orteguaza: The Story of an American Military Advisor and the Colombian Drug War,” pulling details from his last tour in Columbia.
“J.K. Rowling has nothing to worry about because this thing will never be a bestseller,” Rosello said. “It was more of just a capture piece, something to put it all on paper. If I had to write that book today I couldn’t because all the memories, the thoughts, the people, the conversations and all that, it just kind of disappeared in time. So, it was fresh in my mind and it was good that I did that.”
Since moving to the area, Rosello has discovered a long-lost love of his, music. He joined his church choir and soon began to explore the sounds of Irish and Celtic music. He started a band with several students from the College and has played at local festivals and venues like Aromas. Rosello sings and plays the bodhrán, an Irish frame drum, as well as the hurdy gurdy. He also dabbles in Afro-Brazilian music.
“The choir … moved me to another side of me which I had discovered early in my life: music,” Rosello said. “And then it actually manifested; it didn’t manifest itself early in my life. I mean I’d take piano classes and I had recitals which I detested. Now, I was doing things on my own, picking and choosing, performing, singing, playing instruments, depending on what kind of music I wanted to play.”
Looking for ways to be connected to the community of Williamsburg, Rosello said that he has attended the Global Film Festival for nine years and that he has developed close relationships with faculty members in the Film and Media Studies department.
“I started to learn more about the world through that darn Global Film Festival and in my friendship with many of those young students and professors, this whole world of cinema, film and photography started to be part of this new experience for me,” Rosello said.
Rosello recounted that three years ago he took the bold step of taking his first class at the College for no credit, simply to learn and further his connections to the community.
“I am in heaven; I am back to learning and contributing to the discussions,” Rosello said. “I certainly provide a different outlook on things from your average 18 or 19-year-old. I was a little intimidated at first, for all the reasons that you would expect. … I still get butterflies when I start a brand-new class.”
Photography is yet another artform in which Rosello has reconnected with in recent years. He is a volunteer photographer for the 2nd Sundays Art and Music Festival. He also photographs for local Irish band, Poisoned Dwarf. Rosello particularly enjoys taking photos of Colonial Williamsburg, capturing the color in the world that contrasts his previous black and white life as an intelligence officer. He said he appreciates photography as a platform to keep him connected to music and other musicians even when he is not playing himself.
“Through the photography, that has helped me get closer to many musicians,” Rosello said. “And that has expanded that world of photography and Colonial Williamsburg, the world of music and musicians. So, I never really got away from it. I have never turned my back on music. It is just that reinvention process. If I’m not performing, then I want to be around them. I want to help them and encourage them through photography, kind of build them up and give them a little promotion.”
Tuesday, Sept. 17, Rosello will embark on his second journey to Santiago de Compostela, walking the Portuguese route. In 2017 he walked the French route. Rosello said he plans to photograph the hike, finding unique angles, focusing on color and simply capturing images that he will be able to keep long after the trip and share with friends.
While the Army defined a large part of Rosello’s life, he has not let those 30 years prevent him from traveling, singing, taking pictures, sampling classes and pursuing other interests.
“It has a way of making who you are, and the Army certainly shaped my values,” Rosello said. “I’ve allowed myself to also be that artist of life, the artistic side of photograph, art, music. Going back to school, being a student, it didn’t take any of that away. I think it just built a very strong foundation of molding me character wise without infringing on the things that I love doing in life.”
Throughout his life, Rosello has evolved and developed new passions. He said that it is normal and expected to change and that life should be full of rediscovery.
“I think life is reinventing yourself,” Rosello said. “If you’re the same person you were 20 or 30 years ago, then you haven’t really developed as an individual. Your taste should change, for the better. Overall your character, the quality of your character should improve. You should be a better person, certainly wiser and more experienced. You have to reinvent yourself; you have to be a different you. What I’ve described is basically that whole process of reinventing myself, doing different things in life.”