A Look at America’s Veterans

Name: Retired 1st Sgt. Juan Rodriguez

Place of Duty: Kenner Army Health Clinic patient administration division

Duty position: physical evaluation board liaison officer

Former MOS: 68G – patient administration NCO

Former branch of service: U.S. Army

Time served: 21 and a half years (1985-2006)

Age: 42

Hometown: Cayey, Puerto Rico

Family: wife, Wilda; daughter, Jessica; son, Kevin; grandchildren, Nicholas, Noah and Josiah

How would you describe yourself?: “I am a person who has a true concern for others.”

Describe your job: “Medical evaluation boards determine whether a Soldier is fit or unfit for duty regarding the Soldier’s military occupational specialty. We are counselors that inform Soldiers about the MEB protocols and processes. ”

What is the unique aspect about your job: “My job is sometimes a very difficult process. There are constant changes in the protocols. You have to have a special concern for the Soldier’s needs because the results (of an MEB) could have life-changing consequences. You have to provide personal attention so that everything is explained to them and they have a clear understanding of the process so they can take the information and move forward.”

What did your job as first sergeant mean to you?: “The Germans say that the first sergeant is the mother of the Army. Out of all the positions I held in my military career, the first sergeant was the most rewarding. In today’s Army, I know people think the first sergeant has no power, but in my time, the first sergeant had a lot of power when it came down to finding solutions to the problem.”

What do you know now that you didn’t know when you were a Soldier?: “What I know now that I didn’t know then is that I gave myself to the military, but the Families of any Soldier make sacrifices as well. I know now that I didn’t manage a lot of things that I was supposed to manage better when it came to my children. I put my Family through a lot because of my commitment.”

How can Soldiers today balance their commitment and Family life?: “Get their Families involved in their careers. They have all these programs available to assist Soldiers, but if they aren’t used, it won’t make much of a difference.”

You are involved in charity work. Explain: “I help feed the hungry. We have a group from my church and we go out into the community to feed people. They know we’re coming and they wait for us. I once saw one of my Soldiers out there. I didn’t want to see a former Soldier out in the streets, so that’s what we do, feed the hungry.”

What are your goals in your job?: “My goal hasn’t anything to do with money or promotions. My goal is to give Soldiers 110 percent. To me that’s giving something back.”

Compiled by T. Anthony Bell