Staff Sergeant Marlene Rodriguez, US Army

Marlene Rodriguez grew up in the town of Colton, California. At the age of 23, she joined the US Army and served from March 2003 until February 2009, completing three combat duty deployments to Iraq as a heavy wheeled vehicle operator. During her first deployment in 2005, Marlene received a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and was knocked unconscious when the vehicle she was driving received a direct hit from an improvised explosive device (IED) that resulted in the death of her passenger. In 2007, on Marlene’s third deployment to Iraq, she was serving as a truck commander when her vehicle again took a direct hit by an IED. She was medically evacuated from the site and received a severe TBI which resulted in a seizure disorder. Marlene was sent to Germany for care and then to her home duty station where she began the medical discharge process. She honorably retired in 2009.

Marlene completed her associate’s degree from Northwest Vista College in the spring of 2016 and is now working towards a bachelor’s degree in recreational administration at Texas State University, San Marcos. After completing her degree, Marlene plans to create an organization focused on recreational therapy to assist Veterans. She continues to be involved in her community by volunteering with Heroes Baseball and Camp Capers. She is one of only 500 women who have been awarded the Purple Heart  and the first woman to join the Military Order of the Purple Heart.