Published : Friday, October 13, 2017 | 5:17 AM
Highly decorated Vietnam war veteran Ramon Rodriguez will take to the streets at Saturday’s Pasadena Latino Heritage Parade as the event’s Grand Marshal, donning multiple prestigious Purple Heart, Silver, and Bronze medals the first-generation American hero has acquired during his brave career.
The Pasadena Latino Heritage Parade fills the streets of Northwest Pasadena on Saturday, October 14. For more, click here
Rodriguez entered the U.S. Army when he was still a minor with his parent’s consent and would go on to serve for 23 years involved in special operations missions around the globe, escaping multiple brushes with death, and become nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor–the nation’s highest honor–among many other awards.
“At 17 years old, I was jumping out of airplanes. That was my big thing, it was being a paratrooper,” said retired U.S. Army Command Sgt. Major Ramon Rodriguez.
Every hero’s journey begins with a starting point and for Rodriguez, he attributes the start of his military career to his rebellious antics as a teen.
“On my 17th birthday I went into the military and reason being was I was brought to the court system. It got to the point where they got tired of me and they said, ‘you’re going to the army on your 17th birthday and have your father sign and you’re going to camp 7 in Malibu.’ I took the test and I passed at 17, and at 17 years old I was on my way,” explained Rodriguez.
Rodriguez quickly proved his worth in the U.S. Army and was a Paratrooper with the 101st Airborne Division and also a U.S. Special Forces member.
At age 24 in 1967 he was deployed to Vietnam at the height of the war and was a part of various special operations missions where he was stationed for over three years.
As a sergeant in the Special Forces, Rodriguez undertook dangerous missions behind enemy lines. He led his platoon and others through treacherous situations, even when he was wounded. He told a story of one of the times he was wounded. He and five others were on a mission in an area called Fubai.
“We were monitoring trails, moving at night and calling air strikes. We were down in a valley when we walked into an outpost,” he said. “They chased us and they were firing at us. We went into a ravine and they were shooting at us from above. I took a shot in the behind and I didn’t even feel it. It wasn’t until we felt that we had lost them that I realized I’d been hit. We were literally running for our lives.”
Rodriguez’s life of run-ins with death far from home did not scare him away from serving his country.
“I really felt that my training in leadership was needed there at the time and I did a lot. I got wounded five times, but I’ll do it all over again,” said Rodriguez. “We all had a bounty on our heads,” Rodriguez added.
In August 1967, Rodriguez was awarded the Army Commendation Medal for Heroism for his “fearless actions while exposed to intense enemy fire.”
He continued to earn medals and awards for heroism and valor throughout his tour of duty in Vietnam, for a total of 17 by the time he left Vietnam including three Silver Stars, three Bronze Stars and five Purple Hearts.
Rodriguez was nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1982.
Rodriguez retired after 23 years in the army and remains active in the leadership lifestyle and recalled two memorable moments in his career that stick with him to this day.
One memory in particular is from when he served as a senior ROTC instructor at the University of Missouri at Columbia.
“ I got to see first hand these young cadets that were going to graduate and become officers, and I had the chance to kind of mold them in a way, to be the best and that was a big thing,” Rodriguez said.
“The other thing was I had a scuba team in Panama and we did a lot of search and rescue missions all over from the tip of South America all the way to Mexico,” Rodriguez explained.
Rodriguez spent years living abroad in places like Germany, Vietnam, and South America, but now resides in Long Beach where the once 17-year-old shipped off to serve his country.
Rodriguez will be apart of the Pasadena Latino Heritage Parade Saturday as the Grand Marshal, representing his fellow Latino peers of the past and future.
The Hispanic Medal of Honor Society will have a wall on display that depicts every Hispanic medal of honor recipient.
According to Rodriguez, “We have more Medal of Honor winners than of any other race,” he said.
The event begins with a colorful parade and followed by a celebration of cultural activities including food, music and dance. This year’s theme is “Embracing our Latino Military Service Men and Women”, and will highlight Veterans from throughout the Pasadena area and surrounding Cities.
The City of Pasadena sponsored event is estimated to have an attendance of 2,500 people.
The parade kicks off saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. beginning at Washington park located at 700 E Washington Blvd.
The parade route will continue west on Prescott Street, go south on Los Robles Ave. and finish at the Villa Parke Community Center destination located at 363 E Villa St.
There will be a special ceremony honoring Command Sgt. Major Rodriguez at 1 p.m. on the outdoor festival stage.
For more information click here.