By Glenda Oviedo
Battling five years of post-traumatic stress disorder and pain from a knee war injury, veteran Severa Rodriguez reveals a story of commitment, perseverance and honor.
Severa Rodriguez wanted to travel the world. It wasn’t until she saw a commercial for the Marines and noticed how tough they looked that she decided a military career was for her.
“I was ready for anything, very motivated,” said Rodriguez. “I chose to join the service for my country.”
Having grown up in San Antonio, Texas as the youngest of three children, Rodriguez entered the Marine Corps. She stayed for six years, stationed at Camp Pendleton, California.
She loved the Marines and repeatedly demonstrated her commitment by doing three tours of Iraq. Her dedication helped her obtain the rank of Sergeant E-5. Rodriguez was ready to make the Marines a career, but something prevented her from reenlisting.
“I wanted to reenlist, but when I came back home for the third time I was told that I was unable to reenlist due to my injuries,” said Rodriguez.
It was a wound on her knee that was her major injury, but it is the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which Rodriguez suffers from, that is proving to be the most terrible scar from the war.
“At first, I was a mess. I wanted to stay inside the house the whole time. I didn’t hang out with my friends or family,” remembered Severa Rodriguez.
Coming back from Iraq, she discovered the complexity of adjusting to civilian life. For Rodriguez, the hardest part was the lack of structure. Despite her best efforts, she still struggles with PTSD every morning.
“There are times like I don’t feel I am adjusted to the civilian life,” said Rodriguez.
Fortunately, Rodriguez’s family has stayed by her side throughout it all. “My family supported me even though I didn’t want to be around them,” confessed Rodriguez. “They have been my rock through the tough times.”
Severa Rodriguez knew she needed help. Acting on a recommendation of a counselor at her local Vet Center, Rodriguez turned to the Wounded Warrior Project, a non-profit organization that provides physical and psychological assistance to service members who return from war.
Thanks to the organization, Rodriguez, over time, is once again starting to feel comfortable in civilian life. She has begun to hang out with her friends and family and go out in public and enrolled in school as a full-time student at Florida State College in Jacksonville studying for a degree in Business Administration.
Nowadays, Rodriguez isn’t dwelling as much on the past as she is anticipating the future. She already knows she wants her future to include working with the organization that has helped her cope and move on with her life.
Severa plans to work with Wounded Warrior Project as a peer mentor to veterans, especially female veterans.
Rodriguez believes that female veterans face a lot of challenges during their time in service and also after leaving the armed forces.
“Female veterans face a lot of challenges after leaving the military, such as, being alone in the civilian lifestyle with PTSD and any other problems,” said Rodriguez. “Your family expects you to be the same person before you left to the service, and females do not get recognized as much as the male veterans do.”
At the same time she wants to mentor female veterans, she also wants to promote the military career to other Latinas.
“I believe that young Latinas and Latinos should join any military service,” declared Rodriguez. “It promotes good structure, discipline, and good character.”