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DOWNEY – No man gets left behind. That has been the ongoing motivation for Richard Rodriguez Jr. or better known as Rocky.
Wanting to become a G.I. Joe as a child, Rodriguez went looking for the first opportunity that he could find to fulfill that dream at the age of 17. The Army just so happened to be that first opportunity.
Now, at the age of 34, Rocky recalls his enlistment after graduating from Gabrielino High School in San Gabriel. He was well on his way to establishing his career of 14 years of dedication to the United States Army.
Rocky served 12 years of active duty and two years with the reserve. His deployments were extensive, serving on three different occasions that included two tours in Iraq extending from 2003-2006 and his final tour lasting 13 months in Afghanistan between 2010-2011.
Rodriguez’s Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) was an 11 Bravo Infantry man for five years where he later became a Military Police Officer (MP). By his third tour, Rocky was an established Senior NCO.
He says the most difficult thing about serving is “not serving no more and knowing when your time is up.” Rocky mentions that the men and women that enlist for the Armed Services “are there for the right reasons.” It’s all voluntary and they are ready to give the ultimate sacrifice to defend their country.
Rocky states that being away from his wife Marissa is what he missed most about home. Both Rocky and Marissa served as leading figures in their commitment to the Army community. With Rodriguez being a platoon sergeant and Marissa living on base in Fort Hood, Texas, they each had responsibilities to help their surrounding peers get through the tough times.
The “first tour was tough” he says, because there was absolutely “no communication” with his wife Marissa. But he reflects that they “came through and learned a lot.”
By the third deployment, Rocky and Marissa were maintaining a strong foundation because they were able to grow together in their faith.
Transitioning back into civilian life has been a blessing, says Rodriguez. He currently serves as vice president of operations at RMI International, alongside his father, CEO Rick Rodriguez Sr.
“I have a good family” and the transition “is a work in progress but once you understand that, you get going,” Rocky says.
When asked if he could relive his 14-year career in the Army if given the opportunity again, he simply replied “right now, without hesitation.”
Rocky’s advice to anyone considering joining a branch is “if you’re going to do it, do it all the way because it will be the best experience of your life.”
His future plans are to continue working at their family-operated business and to trust in the direction of “wherever God takes me.”
When conversing about the “Coming Home” series and the Living Tree Foundation, which was founded by his parents, Rocky states that he doesn’t like relaying the stories “but feels like we have to tell them…Living Tree is special because I feel like my dad did it for me. LTF finds ways to help people when they need it most and that’s what we have done and will continue to do.”
“Coming Home: A Veteran’s Story” is a project between the Living Tree Foundation and the Downey Patriot, with the goal of telling the stories of local veterans. If you are interested in telling your story, contact Julie Garcia at (562) 884-8683 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published: Aug. 14, 2014 – Volume 13 – Issue 18