More From Master Sergeant Johnson…
Sgt. Gregory Rodriguez suffered a massive traumatic brain injury that severely impacted his speech. He received a medical retirement from the Marine Corps and was placed on the temporary disability retired list which meant that he had to attend a physical every 18 months for the next 5 years to determine if his condition had stabilized, gotten better or if it had gotten worse. My team was asked to check in on the Marine because he wasn’t responding to the letters that were sent to him directing him to call the number listed on the letter to schedule an appointment to be re-evaluated. At the time we met with him he was in jeopardy of being dropped from the temporary disability retired list because of non-compliance.
When I met him at his home in Chicago I did what I normally did and tried to establish rapport. Because of his brain injury I couldn’t understand a single word he was saying and my hearing loss from my time with artillery didn’t help the situation. To make matters worse, Sgt Rodriguez had a giant yellow lab who demanded a lot of attention. After about 5 minutes Sgt Rodriguez walked over to a desk, wrote a note on a piece of paper and handed it to me. The note read, WHAT’S YOUR PHONE NUMBER? I wrote it down gave the note back to him and he pulled out his phone and sent me a text with a saying that was made popular from an AT&T commercial, “CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?” I read the note and looked back up at Sgt Rodriguez who was grinning ear to ear.
Once we broke through the language barrier we were able to communicate. I wanted to go right into diagnosing and helping Sgt Rodriguez with his current situation. Sgt Rodriguez wanted to get to know who I was, where I was from, where I served and what kind of sports I liked first. True to LtCol Maxwell’s concept of helping wounded Marines, Sgt Rodriguez wanted to know first of all if I “got it”. He wanted to be sure that I understood that just because he couldn’t talk that didn’t mean he was stupid. He needed to get this order of business done before anything else was going to happen. Sensing he was letting his guard down I sent him a text that read, “WTF IS UP WITH YOUR DOG” he smiled and sent me another text that read, “SORRY ABOUT MY DOG. MSGT I NEED HELP”. From that point on I knew I was able to help this Marine out. Since then we have become friends and when I hear that I have a text after the Milwaukee Brewers fall to Sgt Rodriguez’s beloved Cubs I know it’s from him and will read something to the effect of “CUBS RULE!”