Our nation joined together after the September 11th tragedy, uniting in our bond as Americans. The war with Iraq and Operation Enduring Freedom brought stories of those fighting for our country into our homes and into our hearts. As Independence Day draws near, NewsChannel 11 will introduce you to people right here on the South Plains that are Proud to Be Americans.
We start with a family who possesses extreme patriotism -- the Rodriguez family. Specifically, father and husband Maximino Rodriguez, who came home Saturday night after four years of naval missions.
Maximino Rodriguez joined the Navy 13 years ago, the last four years have been the hardest. Max has been on consecutive missions, shipping him to about a dozen different countries, keeping him away from home.
"It's good to come home and tell my kids this is what dad did, but at the same time, I'm home," says Maximino Rodriguez.
Max is a father of two, Wesley 14 and Sarah 11, has seen his family off and on over the years, but only for short visits. This time, he's really home.
"This is it. He doesn't have to go back on the ship. This is our final homecoming for four years. We got new orders in San Antonio. He'll be an instructor, and he'll be home every day," says Maximino's wife, Sarah Rodriguez.
After serving as an anti-terrorism force protector on Navy ships. Now, he'll teach others the new procedures since 9-11. Sarah says their faith and communication has kept their family strong.
"The way we survived it is basically we kept him in the loop. If the kids got in trouble at school, he knew about it. If they did good things, he knew about it," says Sarah.
"It's overwhelming for me to be here right now. I guess it's going to take me awhile to soak it all in. I can see just by looking around the house and watching them how their lives have been -- what I've missed. The past can never be replaced. We can only appreciate every day. What we take for granted is life," Max says.
"It just really felt good to have him home like he was the missing piece of the puzzle, but when he came home, it was done," daughter April says.
As much as the Rodriguez family missed each other, they all support what dad's been doing.
"This is something I would never want to take away from him. It's become a part of who he is and he is very proud of the Navy and what he's become in the Navy," Sarah says.
What he's become and the pride in patriotism, the whole family understands.
"I have the right and the freedom to have my own religion, do things I want to do, and other countries don't have that, so that's why I'm proud to be an American," son Wesley says.
"Our patriotism is our way of life. It is literally giving the best part of your life for your country and for people that don't even know you. Because he's been doing this for four years, our children are 14 and 11, and those are years that will never be replaced, and he has given that part of his life, and to me, that is true patriotism," Sarah says.
"There is not words to describe that for me. I first look at it as this is my job. I was not forced into this. I volunteered. If I had to do it again, yes. It's hard to me, I think patriotism would have to go with me being on the front line knowing that America stands behind what we do. I can't do it by myself, but the backbone is the United States, and together we are a body. We can all hold that flag up," Max says.
The Rodriguez family plans to move to San Antonio over the next two weeks, after a huge July 4th celebration with their family and friends. They have been invited to take part in the 4th on Broadway parade along with the other "Proud Americans" that NewsChannel 11 will bring to you throughout this week.