Purple Heart Visits Corpus Christi Coasties

Corpus Christi, Texas -  After months of suffering from over a dozen seizures a day and multiple failed suicide attempts including one that left her with a broken leg, 3x combat deployed and twice blown up, US Army purple heart recipient Staff Sergeant Marlene Rodriguez, retired,  knew it was time to try something, anything different to get her off the booze and medication mixed roller coaster she was on. 

For weeks she had turned down her best friends request to join in on a whitewater rafting trip on Idaho’s Salmon River.  Finally, with thoughts of her constant seizures and drowning in the back of her head, she picked up the phone and said she’d go. 

After three days of downstream travel, Marlene Rodriguez realized that the 5 day rafting trip was going to be over without her having stepped foot off of the huge ‘cadillac’ supply raft she’d been floating on.   She’d spent hours each day watching her friend and others take on the rapids in the much smaller kayaks and knew it was time to sink or swim. 

“Something inside me just clicked, I hadn’t had a seizure in a while and I was like ‘what the hell’ I might as well try this kayaking stuff out.”  

It wasn’t long before she found herself navigating a major set of rapids. “ It was crazy, I didn’t know what I was doing and then suddenly I shot out of a wave and was in calm water. It took me a few moments to realize that I’d survived the rapids. I was so stoked, I raised my paddle over my head and pumped the air… I hadn’t felt that level of happiness in a long long time.” 

Without realizing it Marlene, had triggered something powerful enough inside her to do what medication and traditional therapy hadn’t been able to accomplish - she stopped having seizures.   It was right there in the river, sitting calmly in the kayak that she realized how cool it would have been for Private Kevin M. Jones, (KIA September 22, 2005) to have been able to do something like this.  

Kevin, was one of Sergeant Rodriguez’ soldiers who died from an IED explosion during her second deployment in Iraq, he was sitting directly beside Marlene when the device went off underneath their vehicle.  “From that moment on I decided that I was going to start living life and dedicating my adventures to Private Jones.” 

Today, Marlene has committed herself to attempting to be the first female purple heart recipient to summit Mount Everest and rest assured Private Kevin Jones will be with her every step of the way.  “I want to shatter the glass ceiling for my fellow combat wounded sisters, I know Kevin would be proud to be a part of making that happen.”   

To date, less then 500 women have reached the summit of Everest and only 3 purple heart recipients have accomplished the feat - all men.

Along with American300’s Rob Powers, the two will spend days with US Coast Guardsmen assigned to Coast Guard Sector Corpus Christi.  “Our all volunteer effort is focused on connecting relevant and relatable mentors with our service members around the world, “says Powers, adding, “This will mark our fourth visit to Sector Corpus Christi and first since the damages inflicted by tropical hurricane Harvey, if there’s a group of service members who know a thing or two about never quitting it’s our Coasties in Corpus Christi - they like Marlene and I are going to really enjoy spending time together.” 

For more information on American300 or to reach out to any of the organizations mentors visit: www.American300.org 

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