By Lisa Henry
Marine finds camaraderie in national service program
As soon as he was able, Chris Rodriguez joined the United States Marine Corps and served honorably for four years including nine months spent in Afghanistan. After his service and lacking a clear mission, Chris struggled with the transition from the military back to civilian life.
Over the following several years with the support of his family, he put his energy into apprenticeship programs and higher education. He earned has his B.A. in Human Behavior and a certificate in Elementary Education from the University of Washington and also became a journeyman boilermaker. A man of many talents, Chris worked as a boilermaker for four years and substitute taught and tutored when there wasn’t enough trade work.
Finally in 2012, feeling unsatisfied with his work and wanting a change Chris decided to take a new route. About this time, his daughter told him about AmeriCorps.
“I heard the word ‘America’ and the word ‘Corps,’ and I put it all together. I found something where I can use all my Marine Corps training as a crew leader and all my apprenticeship training in construction. I’ve found something I can do that uses all my skills, and I’m good at it!”
A lot of veterans have a rough time trying to find that next thing. But on this build site, I’ve got all these new friends and everyone’s on the same sheet of music, which is just like the military, just like a football team.
Through AmeriCorps, Chris found a home with Habitat for Humanity Seattle – King County serving as a Construction Volunteer Lead on the Rainier Vista, Seattle build site.
“A lot of veterans have a rough time trying to find that next thing,” Rodriguez said. “But on this build site, I’ve got all these new friends and everyone’s on the same sheet of music, which is just like the military, just like a football team.”
It seemed that Chris may have finally found his niche! Through his tremendous work ethic and team spirit, Chris was an immediate leader among his fellow AmeriCorps members and flourished in his role leading volunteers. He was able to combine his unique skillset of trades and humanities to provide a level of community engagement and service that had previously never been achievable. His enthusiasm and energy was contagious and brought new life to our efforts of providing safe decent affordable homes to low-income, yet hard-working families in King County.
And perhaps most importantly, Chris began to feel satisfaction in his life outside of the military.
“I traded in my gun for a hammer,” he said. “There are so many ways to serve. One is not better than the other. It’s all service.”
Now a construction site coordinator with Habitat for Humanity Seattle - King County, Chris continues to serve by utilizing the leadership and construction skills he honed during his AmeriCorps term. He provides guidance to hundreds of volunteers who build affordable houses in partnership with low-income families. Through his strong work ethic and generous spirit, Chris now mentors and supervises a team of AmeriCorps members who serve under his direction on the construction site. He is continuing to serve his community and his country by building safe sustainable homes, nurturing AmeriCorps members and most importantly being a great husband and father to his wife and three children.
Lisa Henry is the AmeriCorps Program Manager with Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King County.