We continue to honor the service and sacrifice of our veterans through stories of people who seem ordinary at a glance. But they are extraordinary in their service to country and their will to keep moving forward.
Ryan Rodriguez describes himself as a combat wounded veteran who proudly served the United States Marine Corps from 2006 to 2012. During his service, he deployed twice to Iraq. “Over my two deployments, I had multiple brain injuries and some spine injuries,” Rodriguez said. The Marine also needed a corneal transplant.
Rodriguez said this was the beginning of a difficult journey that included divorce, bankruptcy, having his daughter call someone else dad, and finally an eviction notice from the “worst apartment complex in Southern California.” Rodriguez said he had no place to go and was already dealing with a DUI and Non-Judicial Punishment (NJP). He said, as a Marine, he was held to a higher standard both in and out of uniform.
It was while he was at Wounded Warrior Battalion West in Camp Pendleton for rehabilitation that he crossed paths with Kristal Cardenas, Executive Director of the Operation Homefront Village in Oceanside, CA. “I had no idea [she] would play such a vital role in my life. Kristal Cardenas was a guiding light that reached out to me when I thought I had dealt with enough in this lifetime,” said Rodriguez.
Rodriguez ended up moving into the Village where he could live rent-free, focus on recovery and start building his life again. He went back to school, eventually graduating with a degree in Organizational Management, a minor in Entrepreneurship and a GPA of 4.0 as he pursues his MBA in Public Administration.
“Second chances don’t always happen. With that said, I moved forward with my life and even found love during this period of reflection and rehabilitation,” said Rodriguez. But Rodriquez’ good fortune continued when he was chosen to receive a mortgage-free home in Kingwood, TX through Operation Homefront’s Homes on the Homefront program. The move brought him closer to his daughter, who lived with her mother in Texas.
“I stand here as a recipient of a home. I am married to a wonderful woman. And I have two amazing dogs and I am able to be there for my daughter who now understands who her dad really is. I am forever in debt to Operation Homefront for providing second chances to severely injured military members. I say that I’m lucky. My family reminds me that it’s not luck, that I sacrificed [a lot to get here]. I don’t see it that way, I see it as something that I wanted to do,” Rodriguez said.
Join in the conversation with us as we celebrate those veterans among us, by sharing stories of your own. Through Facebook or Twitter, please use the hashtag #11days11stories to share your own inspirational story of a veteran in your life.