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Two weeks after I got my green card, I joined the National Guard.
When I was growing up in Cuba, there was a visa lottery program to immigrate to the U.S. My family applied for this program, and we got called when I was in my third year of medical school. We decided to drop my career and move to the U.S. It took another three or four years before the rest of my family could come.
My cousin was the one who convinced me to join. He pointed out that I could earn certifications, get into school and have these benefits the Guard offers. I was a Unit Supply Specialist, providing supplies to soldiers during my first contract. After my contract was up, I decided to leave so I could spend more time with my family. My daughters are 6 and 4 years old now.
My platoon sergeant called me a few years later — he had become a recruiter. He wanted to know if I was willing to go back into the Guard. I told him, “Well, if you can find me the right job, I’ll be more than happy to go back.” They found me a job in the signal company, where we establish satellite and encrypted communications between companies, divisions and battalions. I went to a military base in Utah where I obtained
my IT certifications and I had to go through a process to receive my security clearance – in my case, it took a whole year because I was born in another country. I deployed to Albania and when I came back to the US, I got hired as a Field Services Technician here at Suffolk. I am happy with my role because I’m doing the same thing here that I do in the military.
With the National Guard, if there’s a natural disaster, a civil disturbance, or anything like that, we get the call. When Hurricane Ian hit, I got called to report to my unit. We deployed to cities in Florida — North Port, Lehigh Acres, Venice, and other places close to the coast — to help people who basically lost everything. We were providing food, water and tarps, and helping local law enforcement direct traffic since the signals were out. People were crying. I felt awful for them.
I was glad to be there helping them in that moment.
Those areas have a big Hispanic community, with many Cubans, Mexicans and Puerto Ricans. We had people lined up to get food and water, and they needed someone who was fluent in Spanish to answer all their questions about tarps, water and shelter. I was glad to be there helping them in that moment.
This wasn’t my first hurricane. As we say in the Guard, mission first.
Danyer Rodriguez is an IT field services technician at Suffolk. After arriving in Tampa in 2007, he served in the National Guard from 2009 to 2017, then rejoined the service in 2020.
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