Barry Romo, whose combat experiences in Vietnam led him to become a leading antiwar activist who threw his medals onto the Capitol steps during a demonstration by veterans, died on May 1 in Chicago. He was 76.

His death, in a hospital, was caused by a heart attack, said Roberto Clack, a friend and colleague.

Mr. Romo was a strong supporter of the war when he arrived in Vietnam as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army in 1967 — but within four years, he was a leader of the group Vietnam Veterans Against the War. He earned a Bronze Star for his heroism in a battle in Tam Ky Province in November 1967 when he exposed himself to enemy fire to reach a squad that had been separated from the platoon he was leading. In early 1968, he fought during the Tet offensive.

But he was crushed by an event that happened that May in Dong Ha, a village close to what was then North Vietnam: A North Vietnamese sniper killed his nephew Bobby Romo, who was a month younger and in the same brigade, while he was trying to save a friend.

The intensity of enemy fire kept Bobby’s body sitting in the sun for 48 hours until it could be retrieved.

“A staff sergeant said, ‘Why don’t we seal the body permanently?’” Mr. Romo told Story Corps, the oral history project, in 2015. “‘That way your family, they’ll remember him as he looked like when he graduated from high school.’”

Mr. Romo escorted his nephew’s body home to Rialto, Calif.

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