Contributed by Thomas Segel, USMC (Ret)
The Second Squad of Company G, Second Battalion, Seventh Marine Regiment was participating in a combat patrol from which they might never have returned, because they became victims of an enemy ambush. The rain of bullets seemed to come from everywhere at the same time. The Marines found themselves pinned down by the explosions of hand grenades and withering small arms fire. Nobody could move from cover. The Third Squad moved up in support of their fellow Marines who had been overwhelmed by a strong enemy force.
According to the citation, it was a lone Marine who helped turn the tide of battle. With complete disregard for his own safety, Lance Corporal Steferino Rodriquez took the initiative and exposed himself to intense enemy hand grenade and automatic weapons fire. He moved from position to position delivering a high volume of M-14 rifle fire. He relaxed that fire only to toss hand grenades at the enemy positions.
During the firefight, the Second Squad Leader was severely wounded and was lying in an exposed position. Though already wounded himself, and in severe pain, Lance Corporal Rodriquez immediately came to his fellow Marine's aid. At the same time he kept up a high volume of suppressive fire against the enemy forces only short yards away, eliminating several enemy soldiers.
What happened in this brief combat action sounds as if the events enfolded only yesterday. They really occurred on March 24, 1968 in the Republic of Vietnam, during Operation Worth. As it sometimes happens during the many rapidly changing events of combat, the recommendation for a medal in recognition of Lance Corporal Rodriquez's valor was misplaced.
On August 25, 2009, friends, family and fellow Marines gathered to celebrate a special event in front of the Iwo Jima Memorial at the Marine Military Academy. A grey haired Seferino Rodriquez from Rio Hondo, Texas stood at attention as Marine Brigadier General Stephen Chaney read from the citation, which stated in part "Lance Corporal Rodriquez's quick thinking, courageous actions, inspiring initiative and complete dedication to duty were instrumental in breaking the enemy ambush."
Just 41 years, 5 months and one day from the time those first shots were fired, the former Lance Corporal Rodriquez was awarded The Bronze Star with a Combat "V" for Valor in recognition of his heroism.
Thomas D. Segel