Workaholic During our Veteran Center’s grand opening in Newhall on February 24, 2018, I met Albert Rodriguez who played a large role supporting Elliott Wolfe and our Santa Clarita Veteran Services Collaborative in establishing this facility. Because Albert is such a workaholic, setting a meeting proved a daunting task until Elliott literally trapped him recently at the Veterans Center. I fully appreciated Albert taking time to speak with me as I found his experiences quite riveting. Dress Blues Got Him Albert F. Rodriguez was born January 17, 1975 in Manhattan, New York, and he grew up in nearby Queens graduating from the High School of Art and Design June 19, 1992. This high school was started by four art teachers in November 1936 and is still going steady to this day. While attending high school, Albert put his strong work ethic to work while flipping hamburgers at McDonald’s. However, one of the most significant events occurred at high school and that was the day that three U.S. Marines arrived on the scene wearing their awesome uniforms to conduct recruiting sessions and that was it for Albert. On November 1, 1992, Albert enlisted in the U.S.M.C. and he was immediately sent to Parris Island for 12 weeks of Boot Camp Training. Albert said, “If I’m joining the military I want to be with the best of the best and the toughest of the toughest”. Close Combat Training Albert served with Platoon #3008 in Mike Company at Parris Island and then to Camp Geiger, North Carolina, for eight weeks in School of Infantry (SOI) Training before moving to Camp Lejeune. In SOI, Albert learned everything an infantry grunt needs to know about M-16 Assault Rifles, M-203 Grenade Launchers, M-249 SAW Machine Guns, throwing hand grenades, Beretta hand guns, and hand to hand combat. Albert became immersed in close infantry combat training and he went on to serve four years out of Camp Lejeune with nine month deployments to Okinawa and the Philippines. He then served one year back at Okinawa before assigned to Marine Corps Base Hawaii at Kaneohe Bay for four more years with the 3rd Marine Division. Hey Diddle-Diddle Following Kaneohe Bay, Albert was assigned to Camp Pendleton from 2001 to 2004 but was deployed to Camp Coyote, Kuwait near the Iraq border in March 2003. Albert’s unit was among the first to cross into Iraq on March 18, 2003, charging via convoy towards Iraq’s ancient city of Basra. It wasn’t long before they were battling Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard troops and taking casualties, which weighed heavily on Platoon Sergeant Albert Rodriguez. Several of his Marines were killed in action and several others wounded as these brave Marines assaulted and took Basra. Albert said, “We were flanked by British troops on our right and U.S. Army troops on our left but as Marines say, it was “Hey diddle-diddle Marines straight up the middle”. After successfully taking Basra, Albert’s unit was promptly off towards An Nasiriyah, Al Kut at the Tigris River and then into Baghdad. The Marines took five ton trucks via convoy between cities but went on foot patrol while launching into urban warfare. Following their successful Baghdad offensive, Albert and his fellow Marines took Tikrit Camel Spiders, Sand Storms & Hard Rain Beyond dealing with the horrors of close combat and losing valiant Marines, Albert said, “If the enemy didn’t get us surely the harsh terrain, climate and environment would. Experiencing giant 12 inch Camel spiders suddenly emerging from the sand and leaping onto our legs was completely unnerving! Iraq’s numerous sand storms were unreal as they completely shut down operations and none of us ever experienced anything like the time we were deluged by a massive three day rain.” Albert ultimately served in “Operation Iraqi Freedom” and “Operation Enduring Freedom” among other deployments before receiving his Honorable Discharge in May 2004. Among Albert’s numerous awards are, Marine Corps Commendation Medal, four Marine Corps Achievement Medals (one with combat V), Combat Action Ribbon, Presidential Unit Citation, three Good Conduct Medals, two National Defense Service Medals, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, etc. California Dreaming Following Albert’s impressive Marine Corps service, he stayed in California and seeking a peaceful community to live he selected Canyon Country and later moved to Valencia. In 2005, Albert began working in real estate for Realty Executives and living a charmed life he was soon mentored by a striking beauty. Albert met Stephanie Danyluk on the job and he instantly thought, “My God, meeting her was like the very best day of my entire life. Stephanie taught me how to become a civilian again”. Four months later, a group of employees went out one evening and Stephanie asked Albert to join them and considering her beauty and delightful personality he could not refuse. That was the beginning of their 13 year loving relationship and Albert remarked that marriage and children are definitely in their plans. Albert and Stephanie’s Altruism Having achieved their American dream through their realty successes, Albert and Stephanie turned to giving back to our community via Toys for Tots and the Michael Hoefflin Foundation for children’s cancer to name a few. Albert is very active with SCV’s Veterans Collaborative and was instrumental in creating our Veterans Center at 23222 Lyons Avenue in Newhall. Albert thoroughly enjoys dressing up as Santa Claus and entertaining foster children at Magic Mountain and children at Carousel Ranch. Albert also prides himself in designing and creating his Ironman costume which he wears for entertaining at UCLA’s Children Hospital. It’s noted that Albert and Stephanie recently received the “Band of Brothers & Sisters Veteran Excellence Award” at College of the Canyons for their strong support of Veterans pursuing education. When Albert and Stephanie are not working their real estate magic or performing charity work, they love hiking and camping at Arrowhead Lake with their doggies, Peppin and Chiquis. Thank you, Albert for your impressive military service and big kudos to you and Stephanie for your outstanding community support for children and Veterans. You two are a true testament to Santa Clarita’s wonderful family oriented community. Bravo!