MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
oy companies around the world make action figures of all shapes and sizes for every personality. G.I. Joes stocked the shelves of toy stores in 1964, launching a trend netting billions of dollars a year. Children’s imaginations can bring these characters to life, and some still long to be the heroes they once depicted.
“My mom always told me I was playing with toy soldiers when I was a little boy,” said Pfc. Jose Alfredo Martinez Rodriguez, a rifleman with 3rd Platoon, Company F, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force. “I knew I always wanted to be in the military.”
Rodriguez grew up in Vera Cruz, Mexico, before moving to the island of Ciudad Del Carmen, where he attended high school. He had never taken an English language course. It wasn’t until he moved to Cancun, Mexico, working as a lifeguard and then becoming a scuba diving instructor, that he began learning English by socializing with American tourists.
“I would try to talk to people because I wanted to learn the culture and
the language,” he added.
Rodriguez moved to Wisconsin Aug. 24, 2003, beginning his quest for American citizenship and a new life in the United States. His new abode was quite different than his native homeland.
“In Mexico, we don’t have spring, summer, fall and winter,” Rodriguez said. “It was beautiful in Wisconsin. I had never seen snow before.”
Rodriguez knew he was ready for a career in the military after he lived in America for several years, but he was uncertain as far as which service to join.
“When I got here, I first wanted to join the Army,” Rodriguez said.
After he spoke with a Marine Corps recruiter about signing up, he later learned that joining the military could help him become an American citizen. He signed up to be an infantryman and headed for Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, in Feb. 2007.
“It was tough at boot camp because I couldn’t speak well,” Rodriguez said. “Everyone was always giving me a hard time.”
Rodriguez’s English conversational skills improved through his initial training in the Marine Corps. By the time he reached his unit, his platoon commander said Rodriguez’s vocal skills were not an issue.
“There wasn’t really a language barrier when he got here,” said Staff Sgt. James Peyton, Rodriguez’s platoon commander.
Rodriguez made such a good first impression on his peers and leaders, that he took a team leader position upon arriving to his unit.
“He was a very mature Marine capable of handling the job” Peyton said. “He was the only junior Marine to hold that position, and he did a phenomenal job.”
Rodriguez has considered becoming a highway patrol officer once he becomes an American citizen, but really thinks he wants to join Marine Special Operations Command. After his wife completes her schooling in Mexico, they are going to decide what to do with the rest of their lives.
“She will have a lot of opportunities here, and I would really like her to come live in America when she finishes school,” he said.
Rodriguez is training for an upcoming deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“When we get back from Iraq, I am going to become an American citizen,” he said.
Rodriguez is slowly but surely on the way to achieving his goal. He is confident about what he wants during his first enlistment and hopes to be an example for Marines that come after him.
“I wanted to be the best of the best,” Rodriguez said assuredly. “That’s why I joined the Marine Corps.”