The Story Behind

Dare Greatly

The Dare Greatly Story

On the day Tanner was leaving for basic training, I gave him a gift. Something that I hoped would give him the courage and strength to fight his way through the adversity of basic training and use that as a launching pad for his military career and adult life. The gift was a framed quote known as the “Man in the Arena” – a speech given by Theodore Roosevelt in 1910.

The speech is a tribute to the spirit of perseverance, courage, and determination in the face of adversity. It speaks to those who dare to “take action” in life. Those who strive for greatness rather than criticize from the sidelines. I gave this to Tanner to encourage him to face his fears, not to worry about the critics, and always remember, whether he failed or succeeded, that he should always “Dare Greatly” in his efforts. Tanner loved this quote so much that he had “Dare Greatly” tattooed on his right forearm as a reminder. Ultimately, I wanted Tanner to live his life how he saw fit – no excuses, no apologies, and to live the way he wanted –  I think he did just that.

The excerpt from Theodore Roosevelt’s speech is below. Thank you for taking the time to read it.

Dare Greatly,
Matt (Tanner’s Dad)

Who is Tanner? A father, son, friend, mentor, and leader.

The Dare Greatly Foundation honors the legacy of SSgt. Tanner Romanos. The foundation is sponsored by the Romanos family, friends, colleagues, and people in all their communities.

Tanner left his mark on the world through his kindness, sense of humor, open heart and mind, and willingness to go above and beyond for others. He proudly served our country as a Staff Sergeant in the United States Air Force. During his time in the Air Force, Tanner had several deployments to Europe and the Middle East. He was stationed at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, with the 1st Munitions Squadron, 1st Maintenance Group, and 1st Fighter Wing. As Staff Sergeant, he was not only a leader and crew chief but a mentor and friend to younger Airmen as well. 

He grew up in Connecticut and graduated from Morgan High School in Clinton, CT. He was a member of the varsity golf team that won a state championship in 2013 — the first in school history.

Tanner was a loving, devoted, and nurturing father to his 4-year-old son, Finnian Matthew. Finn was his “little man” and the light of his life. Everyone was blessed to have Tanner in their lives, yet Tanner and Finn shared a truly special bond.

Tanner was killed in a motorcycle accident on December 28, 2022, in Newport News, VA, at the young age of 27. He loved cars and motorcycles and ultimately died doing what he loved – riding his motorcycle. 

You can read his full obituary here.

Air and Space Commendation Medal

In addition to his many accomplishments in the United States Air Force, Tanner also received the Air and Space Commendation Medal for Meritorious Service from January 28, 2019 to December 28, 2022, given by J. Travis Hilliard, Lieutenant Colonel USAF Commander, 1st Munitions Squadron

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

– Theodore Roosevelt

Are You Ready to Dare Greatly?

We hope Tanner’s story inspires you. Our mission is to recognize and support young people who embody all of the same things that Tanner represents: good character, strong morals, honesty, integrity, respect, and a passion for civic duty, volunteering, and helping others.

And remember that life is about more than just facing adversity. It’s also about making an effort to lift others up and treat people with kindness – regardless of the challenges that you may face yourself.

Living in this way doesn’t take a ton of effort. When you treat people with kindness, it can mean something as simple as being generous with your time or saying words of compassion. It can mean just being friendly or helpful. Or it can mean you make an effort to improve someone else’s day, regardless of how yours may be going.

Here are some specific actions that demonstrate kindness:

When you treat people with kindness, it can have a positive impact on yourself as well as other people. It helps build strong relationships, creates a positive environment, and can improve your own well-being. Tanner was living proof of that.

If you’re ready to Dare Greatly, apply for a scholarship today. We look forward to reviewing your application.






28 JANUARY 2019 TO 28 DECEMBER 2022


Staff Sergeant Tanner M. Romanos distinguished himself by meritorious service as Munitions Support Equipment Maintenance Crew Chief, ​​1ST Munitions Squadron, ​​1ST Maintenance Group, ​​1ST Fighter Wing, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia. During this period, while deployed to Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia, Sergeant Romanos designed the Munitions Storage Plan for seventeen explosive sites across 354 acres, establishing the initial beddown capability and storage capacity for 1.1 million pounds of net explosive weight. His ingenuity and dedication to service revived the munitions storage area after 15-years of inactivity, posturing the 378TH Air Expeditionary Wing to arm seventeen F-15E Strike Eagles in defense of Iranian hostility. Additionally, Sergeant Romanos supervised the integration of five Air National Guard units and sixty-seven deployed Airmen from twelve locations in support of Operation NOBLE EAGLE. His superior efforts generated forty-five fully mission capable homeland defense fighter aircraft, providing security for the President of the United States and the entire National Capital Region. Finally, Sergeant Romanos led a six-member team throughout exercise Combat Archer in support of the Department of Defense’s largest joint air-to-air live fire evaluation exercise. His guidance drove 214 sorties and eleven missile expenditures resulting in him being selected as a superior performer by the Fighter Generation Squadron Commander. The distinctive accomplishments of Sergeant Romanos in the dedication of his service to his country reflect credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

03 JANUARY 2023

J. TRAVIS HILLIARD, Lieutenant Colonel, USAF

Commander, 1st Munitions Squadron

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