Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph E. Rodewald

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph E. Rodewald, 21, of Albany, Ore.

LCpl Rodewald was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.; died Oct. 13, 2010 in Helmand province, Afghanistan, while conducting combat operations. Also killed were Marines Cpl. Justin J. Cain, Lance Cpl. Phillip D. Vinnedge and Pfc. Victor A. Dew.

‘Very special kid’ idolized Oregon football
The Associated Press

Joe Rodewald grew up in a small town not far from the University of Oregon in Eugene.

When he graduated from South Albany High School several years ago, he was such an avid fan of the UO football team that he was voted “Most Devoted Duck Fan” by his senior class.

“He was a very special kid,” said Rodewald’s high school football coach Andy Lusco.

On Oct. 13, Rodewald, 21, was killed in combat in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to Camp Pendleton.

“He grew into being one of the finest young men I ever coached,” Lusco said.

KVAL-TV in Eugene reported that hundreds of people attended Rodewald’s memorial service at an Albany church last month, including Gov. Ted Kulongoski and Oregon football coach Chip Kelly.

“I recognize there are dignitaries here like the governor,” said Rodewald’s father John Rodewald. “And it’s hard to say that right up there is head coach Chip Kelly.”

Rodewald would have been “so excited” to know the Oregon football coach would attend his memorial, his father said.

Lance Cpl. Joseph Rodewald wanted to enlist for as long as anyone can remember, even asking his father if he could attend a military school as a boy, family and friends said Thursday.

Rodewald's family couldn't afford to send him to the expensive school, so the energetic young man waited until after his graduation from South Albany High School in 2007 to sign up with the U.S. Marine Corps.

The former high school football player and wrestler, who would have turned 22, next Tuesday, finished his mission Wednesday in southern Afghanistan. Rodewald's family says he was in the convoy riding in the crow's nest as a gunner.

Rodewald was the lead gunner in a four-vehicle convoy engaged in combat operations in Helmand province, in southern Afghanistan near the Pakistan border, when they drove over an improvised explosive device.

"When they told me that, I couldn't believe it. It was very numbing," said Jacque Brotherton, Joseph's mother. "Actually, I thought that they were just going to tell me that he was seriously injured, because Joe of all people, you would think that he'd last forever," Brotherton said.

Rodewald was rushed to a hospital, but his injuries were too severe.

"I didn't expect it because he just went over there. He had high hopes," said John Rodewald, Joseph's father. Rodewald's father, along with the rest of his family is now remembering the man they say lived to serve his country.

Rodewald's father, John Rodewald, described Joseph as a rambunctious kid who grew into a natural leader while playing sports in high school.

"He was a very strong-willed person, very confident," John Rodewald said, surrounded by supporters at the family's Albany home. "I had no doubts that he was going to go and defend our freedoms, and come home and start a normal life."

The Marine's family and friends say he was brave beyond words and was doing what he loved.

Rodewald graduated from South Albany High School, where he played football and wrestled.

"He was really that ultimate teammate that encouraged other people to do their best. So that leader by example is how I'll remember him," said Brent Belveal, Rodewald's former football coach.

Lori Vigna, the wife of the family's pastor, remembered Rodewald as a strong young man who took pride in serving his country. "He had the curliest hair," she said. "You could tell how curly it was even after he had his military haircut."

Asked why his son wanted to join the military, John Rodewald, 46, said the answer was complicated, though he never doubted the young man's commitment. "Millions of people are in the same boat as our family," he said. "Large family, limited income, economy in the toilet, grades aren't the best. What are your options? Community college? Washing dishes? And the military comes in and says, 'Hey, we've got a deal for you.'

"But I don't think it was that for him," the father continued. "If I had won the lottery and could afford to help my kids out with college, would it have been different? I don't know with Joseph, because he was a patriot, and he wanted to serve his country."

He planned to marry his girlfriend, Kandi Hargett, when he returned from Afghanistan.

John Rodewald said he would fly late Thursday to meet his son's body at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where he would be joined by Rodewald's mother, Jacque Brotherton, 44.

His family says that memory now serves as an example to others not only for the life he gave fighting for his country, but it shows just how short life can be.

"When you're with someone and they're leaving, don't hold back, don't just tell them you love them, hug them, because you never know," said Josiah Rodewald, Joseph's brother.

Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph E. Rodewald was killed in action on 10/13/10.

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