From the VETERANS series:
Carmen Rosa Rodriguez
New York City Recruiter, U.S. Army
Dates of service: 1974-1990
I’m like a Bible. I give my card out to not only females, but to veterans in general. If you need housing, I know where to send you. That’s my calling in life. I tell them ‘if you need anything, just give me a call.
-March 27, 2013, at the James J. Peters VA Medical Center, The Bronx
“I was Army. My father gave me an option: get married or go to college. I said, ‘No I’m going into the Army. ‘My father was military. Before I graduated from high school, he said ‘You not going to stay in the house with nothing, what do you want to do? Either go to school or get married or do something.’ He was in Army, not here, but in Dominican Republic. He was a soldier. I was born in the Dominican Republic and raised here – I came here when I was 5, so I went straight kindergarten. I lived in the Bronx, East Side 160th, around Trinity. My mother brought all of us together in her apartment, her five kids with my father and his two kids with other women. She was something else, God bless her. I used to hate her personality when I was young, but I got her personality now.
“Army gave me a whole year with a program where I could be in school, so I joined in December, 1974 and I went to boot camp in July 1975 to Ft. Jackson, South Carolina, and I did pretty good in Ft. Jackson. Everyone has to do boot camp. I had an ankle injury from boot camp because it’s rough. Not only the working out: no sleep. No sleep for 6 weeks. You cannot sleep. All you do is work, work, work. All night! I’m telling you. You think I’m kidding! You know you do training during the day, then guard duty and KP (kitchen police). You’ve got inspection the next day. You got to shine your boots, the whole night, you got to iron, you have to clean your room.
“Believe it or not, when I called my father and said, I want to go back, he said to me, you can’t come back here, you signed up, you got to stay there. So, I had no choice. I had no place, I had no money, and I did it. I was stationed in Ft. Jackson after boot camp. After boot camp they sent me to school, and then when I graduated from school, I needed surgery on my right ankle because of my injury. And then, because at that time there were very few females, they sent most of us either nursing or secretary. So they sent me to be secretary. I was secretary for a Colonel. He was a doctor.
“After coming to NY, I received training, and worked as a recruiter. After a couple of years working as recruiter, I got promoted to Sergeant. I became a Sergeant because I’m tough. I got raped in New York with my boss. But that wasn’t the issue. The issue was that in the military, they don’t do anything about it. They cover everything. I got raped by my boss, but before that, I saw it coming and I tried to get help.
“I had a home attendant and she asked me, when you join the Army and you’re not happy in a job, can you just leave. You can’t do that: chain of command. You got to go to your bosses. And my bosses were like, you’re a beautiful woman, you know he likes you. And I said, I don’t want to hear it sir, transfer me. And they did not listen to me, so I got raped. And what saved me was—I tried to kill myself and I ended up in a psych ward—I’m telling you why that’s what saved me.
“When I came out, I forgot about it. I had PTSD and they gave me my discharge, and I thought was going to function in society. You know what I did to my body? I became 300 pounds. I was real fat, obese. In the military, I was diabetic and nobody told me. In the military, I started abusing my body, eating. I took it out. Everybody was like, oh you’re so beautiful, you’re so sexy, give me sex. You know men, it’s like that, and I started eating, and I put on a lot of weight. It took me 10 to 15 years to lose it. No surgeries. What happened was, my doctors are very nice. I always say I do the seven step.
“After being a recruiter, I started a Veterans group for women called Military Women in Power with Sandra Rolon at the Bronx VA. We had meetings to help women overcome their issues, it was a social group. I also help veterans get their benefits. I’m like a bible, let’s suppose you want information about housing, I can tell you where to go. Now what I do is word of mouth and I give out my business card to not only to females, veterans in general and their family. And I say listen if you need any help, any questions, or anything just give me a call.
“I pray, I always smile, I don’t let stress get me because God’s in charge, I eat right, I go running, I drink a lot of water, I workout, I help people, I help a lot of people, and I give a lot of love. I’m always smiling. I give a lot of love and don’t let nothing bother me. I don’t let nothing upset me.