Braulio Rodas, USMC (Retired)
I am the son of immigrants, and I joined the United States Marine Corps in 2005 in order to serve and protect this country that has given so much to my family and countless others. I intended on making the Marine Corps my career, and I served on active duty for eight years with multiple combat tours of duty to the Middle East.
Constant deployments took a toll on my body and spirit. On one occasion in 2007, my team and I were ambushed and nearly lost our lives. Our enemy concealed themselves among civilians, hiding in the city to shoot at us, knowing that we would not return fire due to the risk of one of our bullets hitting innocent civilians. In this encounter, I sustained severe combat injuries, and due to those and my failure to deal with recurring issues, my dream and promising Marine Corps career ended after eight years.
I developed chronic pain all over my body, lost a substantial amount of my hearing, and needed two major surgeries to repair my wounds to the extent possible. To this day I am in rehabilitation programs. Doctors have said that I will have pain for the rest of my natural life. I write these facts not to complain or whine, or for anyone to thank me for my service, but to give you an idea of the cost to me of my service to our country.
On Saturday, May 30, my twenty-two year old younger sister decided to go to a demonstration in the Fairfax district of Los Angeles. Although I acknowledge and respect her desire to protest and exercise her First Amendment rights, I wish that she had come to me so that I could have talked with her or at least to loan her my gas mask, Kevlar helmet, or, even my flak jacket for protection. This was the same little sister who asked me why I had to leave as I climbed the bus to go on my first deployment; the same sister who I asked to worry not for me and my work, but for our parents and their well-being. I asked her to promise me she would do the very best she could to be the change she wants to see in this world.
She and her friends were marching prior to curfew when they encountered some police who seemed to be limbering up and itching for a fight. They suddenly turned on the protestors and one of them fired a rubber bullet that hit my precious, little sister in the jaw. She was taken to the nearest hospital where she was wheeled into surgery. Fortunately, her skilled doctors were able to save her teeth and thankfully her injuries were not any worse. But the mirror will remind her of that fateful day for the rest of her life.
My family and I have consulted with several lawyers about bringing to justice those responsible for my sister’s injuries, and they tell us that we cannot sue without being able to identify the officer who shot her. Officers who cannot be identified essentially have immunity from prosecution for abuses that they commit.
With regard to the protests, I’m reminded of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and John Lewis and the protests they led. My sister and her fellow protestors metaphorically followed in the footsteps of Dr. King and Congressman Lewis who crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday. Just as the 1965 march was met with billy clubs, tear gas, vicious dogs, and brutality, the protests in Los Angeles, more recently Portland, and other American cities have been met with unjustified use of force.
In recent months we’ve heard incendiary comments by some from the President on down, and witnessed violent actions by both law enforcement as well as some civilian protestors. Those who condone violent speech or actions act neither in favor of life nor liberty because they put lives in imminent danger.
These are the thoughts of a disabled U.S. Marine who fought a deceptive enemy on foreign soil in hopes of never seeing the same tragic bloodshed in our country — hopes that were devastated by the shooting and wounding of my little sister.
Braulio Rodas is a retired Marine, a recent graduate of Pepperdine University where he served as the president of the Pepperdine Student Veterans’ Committee, and currently a graduate student at Hawaii Pacific University.