This week’s featured Veteran is Angel Rondon, United States Marine Corps (USMC). He is currently a resident at Saint Barnabas Hospital Rehabilitation Center; recovering from a leg injury. Last month I called Devil Dog USA Incorporated Chief Operations Officer, Debbie Powers, to ask how our friend was doing. Unfortunately the conversation was one of concern as she mentioned that Angel’s previous injury had gotten worse and he was not his cheerful self. I decided it was a good time to remind Angel that a Marine never leaves another Marine behind.
After finding Angel’s location through Saint Barnabas’ directory, I navigated my way to his room. On the route I thought about the last face to face conversation we had together.
During a joint event that included people from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the Star of the Sea – Sea Cadet Corps and a group of fellow Veterans, Angel came over to chant some OORAHS and to check on the progress of our Save-A-Home project. As always he was happy to be around Marines but overjoyed when I told him the purpose of the Cadets being at the location. It was explained to him that we are showing the youth how we take care of our own. The Save-A-Home project is meant to help Veterans needing housing but who do not qualify because of the discrimination of the Post 9/11 G. I. Bill. We ended that conversation with a quick picture, depicting the progression of a Marine life cycle.
Knocking on Angel’s door reminded me of the days in the Marines where I had to request to report in but this time it was in a more “civilian tone” of course. After I was given permission to enter I took a seat next to him and could see his obvious discomfort. We began speaking as all Veterans do about the service, issues with Veterans Affairs and other Veteran related issues. Immediately when we finished the small talk, the 1st question he asked was, “How’s the housing project going?” I told him that, like all Veteran issues, it will be a long standing project but that it won’t stop.
Angel reminded me of the pride and joy that all Marines share. As Marines, we are taught to be prideful and aim to be the best at everything we do. He was excited to tell me that he took twenty-five steps back and forth in today’s therapy session. At first I assumed he took twenty-five steps total but he was quick to correct me, stating that he was only told to take a few steps but had to show off because of our common trait, “We are Marines and we have to show everyone how hard we are.” he proclaimed.
To be honest after he said that, I sat up straight a little. Angel’s upbeat attitude and motto hat can cause one to forget about the badass, tattooed recon Marine he once was but still embodies. Finishing our conversation, he asked if I drove the Devil Dog Mobile but I told him I walked. With the weather changing he was concerned about the cold temperature but I responded with, “You know a Marine never leaves another Marine behind.” He was happy to see me but the sad part about visiting someone in the hospital is the inevitable reality that comes crashing down when they speak about their lonely time in a room. Angel said he could not wait to get home and how he missed the whole summer being stuck there.
I told him that as long as he was recovering in the hospital, I would stop by once a week and spend a few hours with him. He gave me his signature smile and replied back to me with a, “Thanks Marine” and a classic OORAH. I simply said “YUTTT!”
If you would like to join me in my visits with Angel or stop by on your own, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or (516) 515-0240. While helping Angel look for an extra blanket, I did not see his Marines hat, so I plan to get him one. Anyone who is able to send him some motto gear, let me know as well.