Honoring DPR Veterans: Rob Sparacino, U.S. Navy

Home means something different for everyone. Home is more than a place and the people in it. Home is a feeling of acceptance and understanding.

For DPR’s Rob Sparacino, home is a vast open space in San Joaquin County outside of Stockton, California. Grassy fields and dirt have been transformed into SEAL for a Day, an experience that brings civilians together with former U.S. Navy SEALs and veterans of other elite forces to spend a day going through field and weapons training used by the Navy’s primary special operations force.

A former corpsman in the U.S. Navy, Sparacino served for six years as a combat medic, practicing trauma medicine in the field during Operation Desert Storm in 1991. His time in the military brought him to places including Kuwait, the Philippines, Guam, South Korea, and even the North Pole for artic training in the Bering Sea. Submarine-qualified and combat dive-certified, Sparacino knows how to navigate all kinds of terrain, survive in frigid and tropical weather, and quickly read people and situations to know whether he needs to protect someone, or protect himself from them.

Rob Sparacino, corpsman in the U.S. Navy, is honored by an admiral post-deployment. (Photo courtesy: Rob Sparacino)

Sparacino, who joined DPR in 1999 after being honorably discharged from service, is now a senior superintendent, using the skills he so finely honed in the Navy on his jobsite every day. Accustomed to training for 16 out of 24 hours a day on a constant high level of stress, Sparacino can handle anything at any time and is not rattled by the daily challenges of civilian life and working on large-scale, complex projects. Things that might cause others to panic roll off his back, because he’s seen worse. According to Sparacino, it is this slower pace that is often one of the hardest things to adjust to when veterans return to life as civilians.

Discipline, self-motivation and collaboration are keys to success on the jobsite and in the military. In the Navy, Sparacino was trained to learn everyone’s job, and know where everybody is supposed to be at all times. The same concept applies on his jobsites, especially when multiple trades are working in the same area – all the pieces need to operate in tandem, like a finely tuned machine, to prevent injury, improve efficiency and successfully deliver a project.

Sparacino enjoys keeping up his tactical skill sets as one of the resident medics and unofficial instructors at SEAL for a Day. (Photo courtesy: Rob Sparacino)

Creating this teamwork is one of Sparacino’s favorite parts of his job.

“To be successful, we need to collaborate and work together. Rounding up clients, subs and our own team brings me back to my military experience. Helping people see the benefit of working together is one of the most rewarding parts of my job,” he said. “Most veterans will tell you, the thing they miss most is the brotherhood. In the 18 years I’ve been with DPR, I hope that people walk away knowing that I’ve got their back. They can count on me.”

At SEAL for a Day, Sparacino enjoys keeping up his tactical skill sets as one of the resident medics and an unofficial instructor, making sure participants abide by the safety rules of the obstacle courses and training with firearms. In the case of an injury, he is there to treat on-scene until EMS arrives.

Surrounded by fellow veterans, training and challenging visitors to SEAL for a Day in safety, as well as physical and mental toughness, Sparacino has found a place where he feels understood and embraced by “brothers” who share the same character and values that he does.

He’s found a place where he belongs. Home.

The SEAL for a Day Team is visited by retired U.S. Navy SEAL Mike Thornton (center), recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor. (Photo courtesy: Rob Sparacino)