Although Sergeant Mario Rodriquez of Wolfforth was the first in his family to join the military, the choice was easy for him.
"The recruiter called me and wanted me to go up there and talk to him, so I just talked to him for a little while and he got me hooked," said Rodriquez, 27.
Rodriquez said he was looking to better himself and knew he needed something strict that incorporated discipline. That is why he chose the Marine Corps while he was still a senior at Frenship High School.
"I wanted to get out of Lubbock and try to better myself. That was my overall goal," he said.
He had back-to-back deployments to Iraq and came face to face with bombs, bullets and improvised explosive devices.
"One of our guys saw somebody out there and thought he had a gun. Then the next thing you know the lights go pitch black. We're popping flares left and right and trying to find this guy thinking we're about to get ambushed," Rodriquez said.
Rodriquez said some of his fondest memories were of the little Iraqi children.
"We had to build up their hearts and minds to let them know that we're there for them," Rodriquez said.
Little did he know, one of these children would soon save his life.
"There's been a time where a kid came to us and told us there was a bomb planted right outside the village waiting for us. Not all Iraqis are fighting us, a lot of them want us there," he said.
Rodriquez refers to the Marine Corps the "tip of the spear" and said after September 11, 2001, he wanted to be a part of the fight to stop terrorism.
"Try to better the world, better for everybody here, everybody over there in Iraq, especially my kids."
Rodriquez's wife, Kimberly, and his three boys, Adrian, Noah, and Elijah mean the world to him. However, being in Iraq on two separate deployments has cost him a lot of family time.
"My second son was born when I was in my second tour in Iraq. So I didn't meet him until he was 7 months old. I was here when my first son was born, but I left a week after to go to boot camp. So I was gone for the first seven months of his life also," he said.
Despite all of the danger and fears he thought he would never make it back, Rodriquez said there is always a bright side if you look hard enough.
"Just keep your head up, keep your head up. If you're looking down, you can't see what's coming."
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