Joseph C. Rodriguez was born and raised in San Bernardino, California. He graduated from San Bernardino Valley College and shortly thereafter was drafted into the Army in the fall of 1950. By mid-May 1951, he was engaged in enemy combat in Korea. It was during this assignment that he was involved in a battle that earned him the privilege of being recommended to receive the nation’s highest honor: On June 1950, General Douglas MacArthur decided on an amphibious invasion of North Korea's west coast, entrusting the 1st Marine Division and the 7th Infantry Division for the mission. The division landed in Pusan and continued to drive toward the southeast to seize key terrain, and also to cut off possible enemy escape routes. On November 27, the terrain gained by the division came under heavy attack from the Chinese Communist Forces (CCF) who had intervened in the war. The enemy attack caught the 7th strung out, with some elements as far as 250 miles apart.
On May 21, 1951, Company F was assigned the mission of occupying some high ground near the Korean village of Munye-ri. The high ground was firmly entrenched with Communist Forces, who were unwilling to give up the ground. Three times Company F attacked the ridge and three times they were thrown back.
PFC Joseph C. Rodriguez was the assistant squad leader of the 2d Platoon. His squad's advance was halted by enemy hostile fire coming from 5 different emplacements. Rodriguez then took it upon himself the mission of destroying these emplacements. He charged the emplacements and hurled grenades in each one of the foxholes. Rodriguez destroyed the emplacements and annihilated a total of 15 enemy soldiers. As a result the enemy was routed and the strategic strongpoint secured. PFC. Rodriguez was promoted to the rank of Sergeant and nominated for the Medal of Honor.
One week after this dangerous action, he was wounded in combat and evacuated to a hospital in Japan for three months. Upon recuperating from his wounds, he requested to be returned to his unit in Korea. He remained in Korea until late November 1951 and then returned to his unit in Korea. He remained in Korea until late November 1951 and then returned back to the United States. The recommendation for bestowing the nation’s highest military award, the Congressional Medal of Honor, was approved and presented to Joseph by President Harry S. Truman in a ceremony held in the Rose Garden in the White House on January 21, 1952.
Joseph served in the Army in every rank, with the exception of Master Sergeant. In June 1952, he was commissioned as Second Lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers. In this capacity, he was assigned to various engineer organizations in the United States and the Far East that included two tours in Korea and one in Vietnam. He was also stationed in several countries in Latin America including Bolivia, Puerto Rico, and twice in the Panama Canal Zone. He traveled extensively throughout much of Latin America on diplomatic and presidential assignments. In addition, he served twelve consecutive years overseas.
The last military assignment brought Joseph back to the United States where he served at Fort Bliss, Texas as the Facilities Engineer of the installation. He retired at the rank of Colonel after completing thirty years of service in the Army. During his military career he attended various military and civilian schools and universities to continue his personal and professional growth.
Joseph Rodriguez was a highly decorated member of the Army. His decorations include:
• Congressional Medal of Honor
• Legion of Merit 9with two oak clusters)
• Meritorious Service Medal
• Bronze Star
• Air Medal
• Army Commendation Medal (with one oak cluster)
• Purple Heart
• Good Conduct Medal
• Wharang Distinguished Service Medal 9with gold star from Korea)
Other awards include the Combat Infantryman’s badge, three Presidential Unit Citations, Airborne wings and various service medals fro Korea, Vietnam, and the United States.
After retiring from the Army, Colonel Rodriguez accepted a position at the University of Texas, El Paso, as the Director of the Physical Plant. He was responsible for construction and maintenance of all campus facilities. After ten years, he retired from the university. Although retired, he was never inactive. He was constantly involved in speaking engagements with civic, youth and military veteran’s organizations throughout the country.
During Colonels Rodriguez’s early military career, he married Rose Aranda of Colton, California on November 22, 1952. They had three children. The first-born, Charles Gary Rodriguez, graduated from the West Point Academy in 1975. In 2005, he was appointed as the Adjutant General for the State of Texas serving as commander of the National Guard, Air National Guard, and State Guard of Texas. He was recently promoted to Lieutenant General. Charles is married to Cappy Ann Prevost, and they have a son and daughter. Lawrence, the second son, is the Vice-President of Business Banking by Wells Fargo Bank in Reno, Nevada. He is married to Karla Jean Scheirman and they have two sons and two daughters. Rose and Charles’ third child is Karen Victoria Sharp and is married to Lieutenant Colonel Sid Sharp (Ret.). They have two daughters and three sons. Karen is also a registered nurse.
Sadly, Colonel Joseph C. Rodriguez died unexpectedly on November 1, 2006. He was a kind, loving, and humble person that brought happiness and tremendous pride to his family and friends. Colonel Rodriquez was buried with full military honors at Mountain View Cemetery in San Bernardino, California.