America's Fallen Hero's

SPC Michael J. Rodriguez

Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked. Psalm 82:3-4

This is what Spc Michael J. Rodriguez was doing in Iraq when he and eight other paratroopers were killed on 23 April, 2007 in an attack on their small outpost in the Diyala River Valley. He was proud to be a Cavalry Scout in the 5/73rd Cavalry, 3rd Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division. He often wrote home about the many accomplishments and progress being made. The first free speech radio station in the area, the need for small toys for the Iraqi children he encountered, and a dictator meeting his fate.

Michael was a fourth-generation soldier. Before he started kindergarten he practiced his Parachute Landing Falls from the 2nd story deck at his home in Dahlonega Georgia and he would stand on the front porch with his backpack, waiting for the Ranger students from Camp Merrill to ruck march past the house so he could fall in with the group. Growing up his toy box was full of pinecone handgrenades, stick guns, canteens, and Load Bearing Equipment . The local military surplus store was better than any toy store to him. His lifelong ambition was to be a soldier and a paratrooper.

In high school, he excelled in Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps but not so much in academics; because that wasn’t something he was interested in. He failed Spanish twice, spelled words how they sounded to him, and consistently lost his homework. In the summer, when most of his classmates were spending time at the beach or hanging out together, Michael was at Kings Bay Georgia attending JROTC Camp.

Michael arrived at Ft Bragg after jump school in October of 2005. He never met a stranger and would often bring soldiers home for dinner on the weekends and for holidays. He had a stack of Army Technical Manuals and would sit up late at night reading them so he would know everything there was to know about his equipment, often sharing his knowledge with anyone willing to listen, earning him the nickname “TM”. He frequently would camp out at Sicily DZ to make sure he would get a chute for the fun jumps. He earned the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Army Good Conduct, Global War on Terrorism, and National Defense Service Medals. He was also awarded the Presidential Unit Citation, Combat Action Badge, Parachutist Badge, and Sharpshooter Badge.