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    Posted November 10, 2014 by
    qotp1129
    Location
    Chicago, Illinois
    Assignment
    Assignment
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Salute to troops

    More from qotp1129

    An Interview with a Wounded Warrior: Gregory “Gregg” Gregorio Rodriquez

     
    A PROUD MARINE OVERCOMES TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI)

    I began writing an article telling the story of how I became a service-connected, disabled veteran. As I shared my story with fellow veterans, I soon realized although we were all considered ‘disabled’, our disabilities, lives, and stories varied significantly. I soon understood we are not famous. We live quiet, unimposing yet very active lives. I was compelled me to tell OUR stories. One such story is that of retired Marine Sergeant Gregory “Gregg” Gregorio Rodriquez. This is my service to him and all veterans. Although our stories, ethnicities, genders, ages, and military branches may differ, there is an unspoken comradeship, a secret spiritual club, only we understand.

    This is the first of several exposés dedicated to active duty and veterans who served honorably, some making the ultimate sacrifice. This is Gregg’s story.

    INTRODUCTION

    Gregory “Gregg” Gregorio Rodriquez isn’t ordinary. He’s young, handsome, smart, witty, and extremely active. The only thing that puts a hiccup in his step is TBI – Traumatic Brain Injury. Gregg proudly wears Marine Corps regalia illustrating his commitment to his Sempra Fi brotherhood. Talking with him is easy and fun. He always wears a big smile and has a constant light in his eyes. Although he sometimes struggles with speech, Gregg is a great communicator. His determination and tenacity to conquer challenges encourages those in his presence to do the same.

    I have encountered many service-disabled veterans; but very few who look at each moment as a moment to be conquered, to be discovered, to be owned. Gregg has. From being in a three-week coma, in a wheel chair for two years, to completing 5k races, Gregg won’t allow obstacles to stop him. There are over a thousand photos of Gregg attending events, from family get-togethers, skiing, diving, surfing, cycling, religious treks, rock climbing, and more. He seems to have an unlimited supply of energy. The more we talked, the more I understood the importance of Gregg’s successful milestones and the personal goals he has set.

    I met Greg at a Hines VA dance class. It was for disabled veterans who wanted to be more social. Although his left side is semi-paralyzed, Greg smiled and danced like a star. Whenever I saw him, I was encouraged to view life as a gift and not focus on my disability. Greg was, and still is, one of my unsung heroes.

    CHICAGO NATIVE

    Gregory Gregorio Rodriquez was born in Chicago on August 20, 1983, to Arturo Rodriquez and Fabiana M. Rodriguez. He has one biological sister. Gregg is the father of two beautiful girls, daughters Dianique Rodriguez age 12, and Brianna Mirella Rodriguez, age 8. His immediate family lives in the Chicago area.

    SEMPER FIDELIS ~ ALWAYS LOYAL

    If you get a chance to have a personal conversation with Gregg you will immediately recognize his true commitment to the Marine Corps. He is so proud to wear the uniform and loyal. When he talks about his military service, Gregg’s face beams as if he has just opened a Christmas gift. His eyes light up and his smile over takes his entire face.

    Gregg joined the Marine Corps on December 23, 2002. Four to five of his friends wanted to join the Marine Corps, and Gregg believed the Marine Corps was the best military organization to meet his personal goals. He still believes the Marine Corps is the best as it allowed him to become his very best. They didn’t just explain what a Marine was. They showed you what being a Marine was. The Marine Corps had very high expectations, which in turn made Gregg set personal high expectations for his military career as well as in his personal life. Although retired, Gregg continues to hold himself to the high standards imparted to him by the Marine Corps.

    TROUBLESOME TBI (TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY)

    As a marine, Gregg was stationed in Okinawa, Japan, Korea, the Philippines as well as San Diego. One Sunday, two weeks prior to leaving for Iraq, Gregg and his childhood friend, Manny, decided to take a trip. Gregg kept bugging Manny to get out of the house. Although he cannot recall what exactly happened, the car flipped. Gregg was wearing his seatbelt, but Manny was not. Thrown from the car because he was not wearing a seatbelt, Manny died a few hours later.

    Gregg recalls his mother constantly bugging him about wearing his seatbelt. He hated wearing it. While stationed Japan, Gregg had to wear his seatbelt because it was the law. No one could drive without wearing a seatbelt, especially on base. The gate guard would check to ensure everyone wore their seatbelts. Due to his mother’s persistence, whenever he got into a car, he automatically wore his seatbelt, which ultimately saved his life.

    THE COMA

    In a coma for 3-1/2 weeks, when Gregg awoke he thought he was still in Okinawa Japan. He I did not remember the accident or that Manny had died.

    HEALING BEGINS WITH DETERMINATION AND HIGH STANDARDS

    Soon after awakening from his coma, Gregg began speech, recreational, physical, and occupational therapies. As he put it, “I am thankful to be alive. I understood I had to hold myself to a very high standard.” Although in a wheel chair for two years, one year with cane, Gregg continues to participate in speech therapy.

    Gregg is determined to become self-sufficient once again and has proven with determination and setting high standards, achieving personal goals are keys to his success. He has completed seven 5ks, his first 5k in 2008. He has participated in the Winter Sports Clinics with is hosted by the Veterans Administration. His favorite activity is scuba diving in which he has been participating since 2007. “I find it therapeutic,” Gregg says with a big smile.

    In May 2014, Gregg travelled on a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France, which was sponsored by the Knights of Columbus. He returned to San Diego to attend Marine Corps Trials to compete in Olympic-style competitions. Since 2008, Gregg has participated in the Valor Games held at Wrigley Field in downtown Chicago. Also in 2014, he also participated in the Veterans Games held at Soldier Field.

    WHAT’S NEXT GREGG?

    Currently enrolled in at Morton Community College, Gregg is studying to become a high school math teacher. He is also training at the YMCA, preparing for his first marathon, which he plans to complete sometime in 2015. In the meantime, Gregg is working on walking 10 miles a day. His ultimate goal is to drive again.

    WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR THOSE WHO ARE STRUGGLING?

    When asked what advice he had for those who are struggling, Gregg sits back, smiles and says, “You have to live life. My favorite quote is, “Go big or go home,” You can’t wait to do things tomorrow because tomorrow isn’t promised. Hurry up. Push yourself to reach your goals. You only live once.”
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