Michael Rodriguez, CEO and president of the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Foundation, addressed the 103rd American Legion National Convention delegates in Milwaukee on Aug. 31 about the purpose of the memorial and the Legion’s ongoing support behind it.
The Global War on Terrorism Memorial “will honor all those who served in our longest war, a war that continues today,” said Rodriguez, a Legionnaire and a former U.S. Army Green Beret who is medically retired after 10 deployments and 21 years of service. Legislation was passed in 2017 to authorize the memorial, which will be built in Washington, D.C. “The American Legion was pivotal in that. We would not be here without (you),” Rodriguez said. “Then The American Legion stepped forward again (through the adoption of Resolution 16) to help us build this memorial where it belongs, on our nation’s front lawn within the National Mall.”
Rodriquez, who also appeared on The American Legion Tango Alpha Lima podcast to discuss the memorial, shared the four tenets that will guide the construction of the Global War on Terrorism Memorial:
1. Honor. “We’re going to honor everyone’s service,” which includes over 3,400 servicemembers who lost their lives and 3,400 nonuniformed servicemembers who lost their lives in service.
2. Heal. “To anyone who has stepped foot in the battle space or battlefield know it’s going to come home with you. It will be with you for the rest of your life. Healing as a nation is necessary. Healing as a community is necessary.”
3. Power. “We need to provide an opportunity for the current generations that are fighting in a war, war with no end in sight, the opportunity to tell their stories, and we will do that … in power.”
4. Unite. “There’s something called civilian military divide. I can tell you right now that does not exist because of many of you. My father’s generation, the Vietnam generation, swore what happened to them would never happen again. And I thank you for it. We will unite.”
Rodriguez said that in 2023 the Foundation hopes to share the location on the National Mall where the memorial will be built, and by 2025 share what it will look like and “start digging. And this is an open invitation to every single one of you that by 2027, I want to see you there when we cut the ribbon.”
American Legion delegates attending the national convention had an opportunity to visit the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Foundation booth to meet Rodriguez and learn more about the memorial. Staffing the booth with him was his son, Sgt. Antonio Rodriguez, who is on leave following a recent deployment.
“Never have we existed as a nation for our sons and daughters have watched their mothers and fathers go off to fight in a war only to serve in that same war. That’s our reality today,” said Rodriguez, whose wife and mother of Antonio also served 21 years in the military with five deployments. “Yet he still chose to take the mantel of service much like many of you do. Much like many of you have done. And I thank you for that. For none of us would be here without you.”
Service for Rodriquez “took on a completely different level” when he hugged his 19-year-old 82nd Airborne Paratrooper son at Fort Bragg as he prepared to deploy to Afghanistan “to perform the same mission I had done and his mother had done some years prior. He turns around, picks up his machine gun, backpack, walks toward the back of the bird right there on Green Ramp … all I see is a toddler walking away. That was the most challenging deployment of my life. Not those 10.”
Rodriquez was proud to share with The American Legion that they had a new member, his son.
“If I was to define The American Legion, I would use three words: purpose, direction and motivation,” Rodriguez said. “It’s what those of us in the Army define as leadership.
“One thing I will ask each one of you to do is to get those younger veterans in your post, or not in your post, to share (their story). They are the future. Sgt. Antonio Rodriguez, my son, the newest member of The American Legion … that is the future of the Legion. And I’m sure you’re going to stand right alongside me to ensure future successes as the nation does continue to provide purpose, direction and motivation.”