HARLINGEN — When doctors first diagnosed Carlos Rodriguez with post-traumatic stress disorder, there was no compensation.

So, the Korean War veteran and Purple Heart recipient had to find other ways to handle his combat-related PTSD. He joined the honor guard for American Legion Post 205 and served under eight commanders.

“I wanted to see if I could help because I was always doing something for other people,” Rodriguez said. “That was my therapy.”

And so began decades of volunteer service that entered a new chapter Tuesday when Post 205 paid tribute to 87-year-old Rodriguez.

Post members and other community leaders gathered with Rodriguez at Golden Corral to honor his years of service and now a much-earned retirement from the guard.

“The American Legion Post 205 honor guard, officers and members are honored to recognize Carlos Rodriguez for his invaluable volunteer service and dedication to the American Legion Honor Guard,” read a plaque presented to Rodriguez by Post Commander Israel Cortez.

“We all thank you very much and may God bless you, comrade,” concluded the reading.

Rodriguez wore a quick smile as he enjoyed lunch with his fellow veterans.

“It makes me feel really, really good, really proud,” he said.

Rodriguez proudly recalled his enlistment in the U.S. Army more than half a century ago. He had turned 17 on March 18, 1951. On March 20, he enlisted in the Army. All his friends were older, and they’d already joined the military. It was the thing to do and he wanted to do his part.

He was sent to Hawaii where he did his basic training at Schofield Barracks, after which he was attached to the 1st Cavalry 5th Regiment and sent to Korea.

“I was there for three or four months, and I got wounded in the shoulder,” he said.

He returned home wounded in mind, body and soul. Ultimately, the VA qualified him for 80 percent disability for his PTSD. He was approved for another 20 percent for injury to his shoulder, which placed him at 100 percent disability.

However, his injuries didn’t stop him from serving in the San Benito Fire Department for 23 years and having a successful family life with his wife Mauricia.

“I still have my wife,” he said. “I have been with her for 65 years.”

They’re both enjoying their golden years with their four children, 17 grandchildren, and 32 great-grandchildren.

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