120th honors one of their own

By Staff Sgt. Cornelius Mclean, 120th Inf. Bde. Public AffairsMay 10, 2024

A man standing smiles.
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – First Sgt. Benjamin Rodrigues, 120th Infantry Brigade, receives the Purple Heart for his service in a ceremony April, 10, 2024, at Fort Cavazos, Texas. (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Cornelius Mclean, 120th Inf. Bde. Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL
Two people, a woman on the left and a man on the right, stand while the woman speaks and the man looks on.
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Tracy L. Brown-Greene, national junior vice commander of the Department of Texas Military Order of Purple Heart, speaks on the important of the Purple Heart and the impact that combat has on Soldiers like 1st. Sgt. Benjamin Rodriques, 120th Inf. Bde., during a ceremony April 10, 2024, at Fort Cavazos, Texas. (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Cornelius Mclean, 120th Inf. Bde. Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT CAVAZOS, Texas — Amidst the rigors of military service, Soldiers often face unseen battles, both physical and emotional, as they strive to accomplish their missions and ensure the safe return of their comrades.

The 120th Infantry Battalion took a moment to honor one of its own, 1st Sgt. Benjamin Rodrigues, April 10 with one of the highest and oldest awards a Soldier can receive, a Purple Heart.

Rodrigues faced numerous trials and injuries during each overseas mission from Baghdad, Iraq, to Jalalabad, Afghanistan, alongside his fellow Soldiers. From combat situations to encounters with improvised explosive devices, Rodrigues witnessed the brutal realities of warfare firsthand. Yet, he remained steadfast, tirelessly training himself and his subordinates to the highest standards, recognizing the critical importance of such preparation in preserving lives.

Reflecting on his leadership approach, Rodrigues acknowledged that it may not have always garnered universal acclaim but emphasized his unwavering commitment to training and safety.

“Often, people did not like me because of how I came off,” he said. “But I knew that taking training seriously was crucial. I wanted everyone to come home safely, regardless of personal opinions.”

Rodrigues elaborated on the impact of his experiences with organizational practices, stressing the significance of understanding the rationale behind military procedures. He emphasized the importance of continuous improvement and thorough training, offering valuable advice to new service members and noncommissioned officers.

“I feel that my experiences have impacted the organizations I have been a part of in a positive way regarding training and individual effort,” Rodrigues said. “Being able to explain in detail the ‘why’ in why we do things a certain way is crucial in today’s military. Why TE&Os (training and evaluation outlines) are important, why AARs (after action reviews) are valuable at seeing yourself as a unit, why METL (mission essential task lists) crosswalks are a thing, why a training cycle is key in continued growth as an organization and how everyone can learn from the coordination of joint operations with a maneuver element and the effort required to be successful.

“The advice I would give to new service members and NCOs in today’s Army: always ask questions if you need clarification on something because that could be the difference between life and death,” he continued. “Figure out how to keep getting better, and, most importantly, it’s not good enough to train until you get it right; you have to keep training until you can’t get it wrong.”

In recognition of his exceptional service and dedication during his time with 95th Engineer Company, 65th Engineer Battalion, 130th Engineer Brigade, the commander of the 120th Inf. Bde., Col. Paul M. Bonano, alongside Tracy L. Brown-Greene, the national junior vice commander of the Department of Texas Military Order of Purple Heart, presented the Purple Heart to Rodrigues at First Army Division West headquarters. This prestigious award not only acknowledges Rodrigues’ personal sacrifices but also symbolizes his unwavering commitment to the well-being and safety of his comrades.

Upon receiving the Purple Heart, Rodrigues expressed mixed emotions, reflecting on the recognition while remembering fallen comrades who did not return home.

“When I finally received the Purple Heart, it made me feel good knowing that the Army realized it was a long overdue recognition, but it also made me feel sad, because I immediately thought of the men and women I’ve served with over 20 years that didn’t make it home,” he explained.

Bonano remarked on the significance of honoring Soldiers injured in combat, emphasizing the importance of recognizing their sacrifices in ensuring the nation’s freedom and security.

“It is an incredible honor to be here to recognize this amazing patriot for his sacrifices to this nation,” he said. “This recognition for 1st Sgt. Rodrigues is long overdue, but it is critically important that we ultimately got it right for both the Soldier and his family.

“Taking the time to recognize our men and women injured in combat by an enemy instrument of war is imperative,” Bonano added. “It is their sacrifices that ensures our freedom. The presentation of this Purple Heart represents an exceptional sacrifice 1st Sgt. Rodrigues has made in defense of the nation. It was truly a great thing to honor him and his family today.”