Hoosier guardsman steps up for family, community amid pandemic

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SOLDIERS AND AIRMEN from the Indiana National Guard assisted the Indiana State Department of Health and local agencies at 18 newly-established COVID-19 study test sites from April 25-29, 2020. The initiative by Governor Eric Holcomb and Indiana University Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health aimed to examine the prevalence of COVID-19 among Hoosiers. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Justin Andras)

By Staff Sgt. Justin Andras, Indiana National Guard Public Affairs

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Pfc. Christopher Rodriguez, an Indiana National Guardsman with Company A, 2nd Battalion, 151st Infantry Regiment in Gary, Indiana, faced some adversity of his own in March 2020. With the rising number of virus cases in the state and Governor Eric Holcomb’s stay-at-home order, Rodriguez soon found himself without employment and wondered what was next for his family.

“Instantly I got on the phone with my sergeant,” said Rodriguez. “Is there anything I can do to help…anything?”

The Merrillville native came from a diverse family of military members spanning multiple branches of the armed forces. Rodriguez always dreamed of one day joining the family heritage.

In 2017, Rodriguez’s wife at the time was pregnant with their third child. He wanted more out of his life and wanted to better provide for the family.

“I was nervous, I was stressed, worried about bills, worried about money,” said Rodriguez, before he joined the Indiana National Guard as an indirect fire infantryman. “This has been my dream since I was a little kid, and we need this.”

A few years later, 2020 was off to a great start for Rodriguez as he worked his way up with his civilian employer at Old Chicago Pizza and Tap Room in Merrillville. But once COVID-19 roared through Indiana, he was without work. However, the opportunity arose to join his fellow citizen-soldiers in the fight against the haunting virus while maintaining a way to provide for his family.

“I’m able to give back to the community that gave me a chance,” said Rodriguez, who serves to protect his family and others during this difficult time.

Since going on active duty orders with the National Guard, Rodriguez joined other soldiers to assist northwest Indiana agencies at COVID-19 testing sites at Merrillville High School, Saint Timothy Community Church in Gary, and Ivy Tech Community College in Valparaiso.

PFC. CHRISTOPHER RODRIGUEZ, an Indiana Nation- al Guardsman with Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 151st Infantry Regiment in Gary, Indiana, directs traffic at a COVID-19 testing site at East Chicago High School, Indiana on May 5, 2020. Governor Eric Holcomb and Indiana University Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health aim to examine the prevalence of COVID-19 among Hoosiers through testing at multiple sites around the state. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Justin Andras)

“We are ensuring the safety of those coming through the site, the healthcare workers and us [the soldiers],” said Rodriguez, whose team was responsible for site setup, traffic control and proper personal protective equipment usage.

His experiences and training gave him a strong outlook on his short time in the military but have created lasting memories for years to come.

“The bond that I have with these guys can never be replicated,” said Rodriguez. “People may come and go in my life, but these guys have been there since day one and are like family.”

The military, the community and the country will always depend on those who are willing to step up and put the needs of others above themselves.

“The best thing that ever happened to me was joining the military,” said Rodriguez, who encourages others to join the armed forces. “When you join a cause that will keep you grounded, it will provide a stable foundation for your life.”

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