Sgt. 1st Class Gregory A. Rodriguez, 35, died when his unit came under fire in central Afghanistan on Tuesday, according to the Department of Defense.
“I asked Greg if anything ever happened to him where he’d prefer to be buried,” said his wife, Laura Rodriguez, “and he told me Arlington, as he wanted to be among the best and the brave.”
Sgt. Rodriguez graduated from Mt. Pleasant High School in 1991. He didn’t immediately join the service, his wife said.
But about three years later, he joined the Army Reserve. The military life agreed with him, and he went on full-time active duty in December 1996. “We have been stationed in Hawaii, Missouri, Alaska, Texas, and Germany,” Laura said. She is a native of Merrill.
Laura now lives in San Antonio, Texas, site of Lackland Air Force Base, which houses the military’s working dog programs. Her husband was a military police dog handler.
Sgt. Rodriguez and his dog, Jacko (pronounced “Jocko”), were a military special search dog team. Jacko survived the ambush in Ana Kalay, Afghanistan, and Laura said she hopes the Pentagon will release the dog to the family.
“He was Greg’s best companion for the past couple of years,” she said. “He’d been sleeping with Greg every night since they landed in Afghanistan.”
The team was assigned to the K-9 unit of the 527th Military Police Co., 709th Military Police Battalion, 18th MP Brigade, based in Ansbach, Germany.
Sgt. Rodriguez’s mother, Virginia Richardson of Lake Isabella, is a support staff member at Chippewa Hills High School. Chippewa Hills Superintendent Shirley Howard said she and another staffer helped the military team that delivered the news find the Richardson home, and staffers at Chippewa Hills have given donations for the family.
Greg and Laura Rodriguez were married in Honolulu in January 1999, and have three young children.
“Greg is the best dad, a loving husband, and an awesome soldier who loved being able to train and handle his K9 companions,” Laura said.
“Rod,” as he was known to his Army buddies, was a Red Wings fan who loved to hassle fans of other hockey teams he met during his military career, she said.
“Greg loved to push everyone’s buttons and get people going with his rare, unique sense of sarcasm,” she said. At the same time, her husband was “a very committed, loyal individual and could be counted on whenever needed.”
Fred Dorr, president of the Vietnam Dog Handlers Association, said a memorial service was being scheduled for Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.
A Mt. Pleasant memorial service also is likely to take place, but has not yet been scheduled.