A junior enlisted soldier stationed at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii will receive the Soldier’s Medal on Wednesday afternoon for intervening in a violent assault, according to service officials.
Spc. Rene Rodriguez is assigned to 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry, which is part of the 25th Infantry Division’s 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, according to a division press release. The award ceremony will take place on the division’s parade field, named for Gen. Frederick C. Weyand.
The Soldier’s Medal is the Army’s highest award for non-combat heroism, and qualifying circumstances must carry “a clearly recognizable personal hazard or danger and the voluntary risk of life,” according to service regulations. Less than 0.1% of the Army’s active duty troops wear the award, said division commander Maj. Gen. Joseph Ryan in a July 14 video newsletter.
On Oct. 22, 2022, while in the vicinity of Wahiawa on the island of Oʻahu, Rodriguez saw a man violently assaulting a woman off-post, according to the release, Ryan’s remarks, and the soldier’s award citation.
“Rodriguez, with complete disregard for his own safety, swiftly moved to protect a woman enduring a violent assault,” reads his award citation, a copy of which was provided to Army Times. After “recognizing the woman’s risk of serious injury or death,” he pushed through a crowd of bystanders and placed his body between the victim and the attacker.
“He used his body as a shield, endured numerous strikes from the assailant, all while moving the woman into his vehicle to depart the scene,” according to the citation. “He continued to protect the woman until law enforcement arrived on the scene.”
The specialist was unaware that the man “was a felon on the lam from California, wanted for murder,” Ryan said in the video newsletter.
Rodriguez’s heroism stands out even among the “little over 240″ active duty soldiers who have earned the award, Ryan said.
According to the Army’s award regulations, the Army Secretary may certify that a Soldier’s Medal recipient displayed “extraordinary heroism…equivalent to that required for award of the [Distinguished Service Cross],” the service’s second-highest award for valor. Enlisted troops recognized for extraordinary heroism will receive a 10% boost to their retirement checks should they reach 20 years.
Ryan confirmed that Rodriguez’s heroism was formally deemed extraordinary in his video statement.
“He did the right thing because he had a bias for action,” Ryan said. “And we’re damn proud of him.”
Davis Winkie covers the Army for Military Times. He studied history at Vanderbilt and UNC-Chapel Hill, and served five years in the Army Guard. His investigations earned the Society of Professional Journalists' 2023 Sunshine Award and consecutive Military Reporters and Editors honors, among others. Davis was also a 2022 Livingston Awards finalist.
James is the managing editor of Military Times and the editor of Army Times. Prior to Military Times, James worked as the deputy editor of Task & Purpose. He is a former Marine Corps combat correspondent and deployed twice to Afghanistan with 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment — first to Marjah in 2010, and then to Kajaki and Sangin in 2011.