Captain 'Americano' featured as role model
By Cpl. David Christian
| Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton | October 12, 2000
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON --
A Camp Pendleton Marine, along with Gloria Estefan, Carlos Santana, congressmen and astronauts, are featured in a project displaying American Latino role models in the United States.
Captain Humberto C. Rodriguez, UH-1N Huey pilot, with Marine Aircraft Group 46, Detachment A, 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, is the only Marine highlighted in "Americanos: Latino Life in the United States," which is a book, photo exhibit and documentary film portraying Hispanic communities across the country.
It features 120 photos, by 30 prize-winning photographers, organized around themes such as family, work, community, sports, art and spirituality.
The photo exhibit goes on display at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, Dec. 2 through Feb. 25. It is part of the Smithsonian Institute Traveling Exhibition Service.
Nuri Vallbona, photographer, Miami Herald, said the project presents an opposite view from negative Latino stereotypes.
"(Latinos) are (not) a bunch of immigrants running across the border, dodging border patrol and taking jobs away from people," she said.
Rodriguez was selected as a Latino role model while a search and rescue pilot and headquarters and headquarters squadron operations officer at Marine Corps Air Station, Yuma, Ariz.
"Americanos" photographer, Paul Perez, chose to photograph Rodriguez because he wanted to emphasize the contributions Hispanics are making in our military.
"(Rodriguez) is a great guy and a very successful person," Perez said. "He is intelligent, patriotic and worked hard to reach a high-ranking position. It is important to him to be a positive role model, and I think people should know about Hispanics such as him."
During his 10-year military service, Rodriguez spoke (often in Spanish) as a positive role model to about 2,000 youngsters in schools and churches.
"I feel I have contributed to the positive image of the Corps," Rodriguez said, with a mild Latino accent. "I want to uphold the standards as a Marine officer and pilot, husband and father, and be a positive role model for the American community."
Rodriguez has overcome many obstacles.
Born in Captain Bravo, Mexico in 1966, he was the youngest of nine children. He moved with his family to Wharton, Texas around age two.
Rodrigueuz and his entire family started off as migrant workers picking fruit in Texas to earn a living.
He was often teased while growing up.
When Rodriguez was in second grade, he would run away from his friends. Because they made fun of him when he ate his homemade tacos.
"Twenty-five years later, I still run away from my friends. But now it's because they want a bite," he said, laughing.
His Latino culture remains important to him.
"My wife and I speak Spanish at home, and I play flamenco guitar."
Rodriguez said Patricia, his wife, has been his biggest fan and supporter. "She has contributed to my happiness and success immensely."
Together, they thank God for everything they have.
"My wife and I are committed to Christ," he said. "Our faith in Christ has truly shown us miracles in our life."
Rodriguez's wife and two daughters are everything to him, he said.
Comparing family to teamwork, Rodriguez said, "You have to be selfless with your family. That is the key to unity. You have to be willing to sacrifice your personal time for them, and change yourself to accommodate their needs. These are the same principles of Marine Corps teamwork."
Fellow Marines say Rodriguez is an outstanding role model.
"Rodriguez is a motivator, who has a great understanding of how to lead Marines," said SSgt. Paul T. Schloss, intelligence chief, MAG-46. "His high level of motivation is contagious."
After working and flying with Rodriguez for three years, Maj. Gerald W. Caldwell, quality assurance officer, search and rescue intermediate maintenance activity, MCAS, Yuma, said, "(Rodriguez) is a man whose every action is in consideration of his family first. One of his best qualities is his ability to always look at things in a positive light."
Rodriguez said the values he inherited from his Latino parents, grandparents and ancestors will never change: "honesty, hard work and family unity."