Sergeant First Class Antonio Rey Rodriguez was one of two two U.S. service members died killed on February 8 during combat operations, the Department of Defense confirmed. On February 9, they identified the two soldiers, Javier Jaguar Gutierrez and Rodriguez.
Antonio Rey Rodriguez was from Las Cruces, New Mexico. The 28-year-old was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) out of Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. The Department of Defense indicated that he received the rank of Sgt. 1st Class as a posthumous promotion.
The United States Army Special Operations Command (SOC) said in a press statement to Heavy that Sergeant Rodriguez died on February 8 “from wounds sustained during combat operations” in Nangarhar province, eastern Afghanistan. The attack that led to his death remains under investigation. According to The Associated Press, the attacker was dressed in an Afghan military uniform. The gunman was killed. Six American soldiers were also wounded in the so-called insider attack.
A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to help Rodriguez’s family. “Rod inspired many of his fellow Rangers while serving in the Ranger Regiment,” Cody Hunn, the organizer of the page, wrote. “Rod was the guy in the teams that always put his men before himself. Rod was a familiar face, both in and out of the US, who’s personality radiated on those around him. No matter where you went on the globe, Rod always had a friend there.”
Rodriguez leaves behind his wife Ronaleen Rodriguez, his parents David Hernandez, Javier and Guadalupe Jaramillo and his brother Christopher.
Antonio Rodriguez Enlisted in 2009 & Deployed 10 Times
Rodriguez was born in Las Cruces, New Mexico, on July 26, 1991, attending Mayfield High School, according to the SOC statement. In 2009, when he graduated, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and attended One Station Unit Training at Fort Benning, in Georgia. After finishing his Basic Airborne Course and the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program, he was assigned to the 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.
Rodriguez deployed for the 75th Ranger Regiment eight times, and twice with the 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group. In June 2018, he voluntarily re-classified as a Cryptologic Linguist for Spanish.
Michael “Rod” Rodriguez, a retired Special Forces Green Beret with nine deployments who now runs the Global War on Terror Memorial Foundation, wrote on Facebook, “I write these words with a heavy heart, not only was this the unit I served with, I knew both of these men, one of whom is from my hometown of Las Cruces. These warriors were assigned to the 7th Group’s 3rd Battalion. Both died ‘as a result of wounds sustained while engaged in combat operations’ in Nangarhar Province in eastern Afghanistan.”
Michael Rodriguez, who was not related to Antonio Rodriguez, continued, “The world is diminished by this great loss and I vow that I will never allow their names nor the names of our fallen to ever be forgotten. We will forever honor a gift we can never repay. Rest Easy and Godspeed Hermanitos… we will meet again.”
Rodriguez Has Many Awards & Decorations Highlighting His Years in Service
He attended many specialized programs and received numerous awards for his service, including the Bronze Star Medal, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal (two Campaign Stars), the Overseas Service Ribbon, a NATO medal, and many more. He was also posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart.
The 7th Special Forces Group Commander, Col. John W. Sannes, said that Rodriguez “was selfless and served honorably; he was certainly among the best in our unit.” He added that “here at the Red Empire, we take care of our own, and Sgt. 1st Class Rodriguez’ family will forever be a part of us, we will assist them in any way we can to help them through these trying times.”
U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, who represents New Mexico’s 2nd District in Congress, said in a statement, “New Mexicans have long contributed to the fight to protect our freedoms. Today, we learned of a New Mexican son who paid the ultimate price for our liberty. SFC Antonio Rey Rodriguez, 28, of Las Cruces, New Mexico gave his life to protect the country he proudly served. My deepest condolences to SFC Rodriguez’s family, friends, and fellow service members.”