According to the Department of Defense, this past Tuesday 22-year old Army Sgt. Jose Rodriguez was killed in the Kandahar Province of Afghanistan. Rodriguez grew up in the Merced County city of Gustine.
“Anytime you hear someone died around here it kind of hits you because chances of you seeing him around town is pretty likely,” said Fernando Silveira.
Fernando Silveira has lived in Gustine his whole life. He never knew Sgt. Rodriguez, but still feels for his family.
“You never expect anybody that young to die. Whether you know them or not it still hits you. I’ve got four kids of my own and I can’t imagine waking up tomorrow and them not being there,” said Silveria.
Rodriguez just started his second tour in Afghanistan in April. He was serving with the 2nd Stryker Brigade when an enemy shot and killed him.
Rodriguez was a student at Gustine High School and entered the Army in 2008. During his career, he earned many awards and decorations including the Army Achievement Medal and the Army Good Conduct Medal.
We met with Kent Madenwald, Gustine’s V.F.W. Post Commander.
“Being an ex-veteran it strikes us very badly. We hate to see these young lads go,” said Kent Madenwald.
He plans to hang a picture of Rodriguez and add his name to a plaque that sits inside the Veterans Memorial Building.
“We have room for six. We hoped we were never going to go past two,” said Madenwald.
The last time a soldier from this area was killed was back in 2008. A memorial dedicated to T.J. Gonzales now sits in front of the Newman Police Department.
Madenwald helped the Gonzales family during their time of grief and plans to do the same for the Rodriguez’.
“People in the post will do whatever they can to help and give him the honors he deserves,” said Madenwald.