Navy Swimmer Succumbs to Accident Injuries

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By Terry Rogers

On September 21, 2017, Jason Rodriguez, who graduated from Milford High School in 2008, passed away from injuries he sustained in a motorcycle accident earlier in the month. Mr. Rodriguez was 28 years old and served as a Search and Rescue Swimmer in the United States Navy. At the time of his death, he was stationed at Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland.

Affectionately nicknamed “JRod,” Mr. Rodriguez joined the Navy after seeing the movie “The Guardian,” becoming a search and rescue swimmer because he wanted to save lives. He was deployed twice to the Middle East, saving many lives during his deployment.

“The Navy was a career for him,” Michael Rodriguez, his brother, said. “He was going to college to study sports medicine and physical therapy, however.” Mr. Rodriguez spent a significant amount of time in the gym, working out and lifting weights. It was at the gym that he met his partner, Emily Hudson, who enjoyed working out as much as he did.

While he was in the hospital, his brother set up a Facebook page for friends and family to remain updated and for them to share memories as well as good thoughts. The page, “JRodStrong,” gained over 400 members as Mr. Rodriguez underwent medical treatment.

“’How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard,’” wrote Cayla Haugen. “I read that quote today and it really hit home. I think about him every day, and while I miss him so much it hurts, I am so thankful for the time I did have with him. As we all are. I won’t ever be able to hit a leg day without him on my mind. I love you, Jason.”

His grandmother, Florena Shields, recalled the first time her grandson was called JRod. “You were first called JRod when you were in Little League and ARod was such a big hit in major league,” she wrote. “Can’t remember what team. You were such a little guy then, probably ten years old. I went to all of your games and was so excited to watch you play. You were good at what you did even then. I’m so proud of you, Jason. I love you and my heart will break until the Lord takes me home. Then, I will see you again.”

Before he died, Mr. Rodriguez chose to donate his organs. His brother said that even after death, Jason is saving lives. Just three hours after his passing, his donated organs continued to live in two separate organ recipients.

Mr. Rodriguez was born to Manuel Rodriguez and Lois Helsdon on May 5, 1989. Besides his partner, Emily, his brother, Michael, and his grandmother, Florena Shields, Emily, he left behind a son, Benjamin Thomas Rodriguez. He is also survived by Benjamin’s mother, Jessica, as well as his parents, Manuel and Shawna Rodriguez, his brother, Michael’s wife, Carrie, another brother, Tyler, and his wife, Melissa, as well as brothers Kyle, Eric III and Cory Smith, along with his paternal grandparents, Manuel and Fermina Rodriguez.

“Everyone who knew Jason said he had a zest for life and gave 110 percent in everything he did,” his obituary read. “Jason had a charismatic personality and witty retort that he shared with everyone he met. His family is proud of Jason and considers him a hero.” Posts in the JRod Strong page agree with the sentiments expressed in the obituary.

“He really pushed Matt and I to live in this mindset that year,” Nicole Churchin said, sharing a Facebook post from Mr. Rodriguez from June 2011, which read ‘…life is but a breath, don’t waste it…’ “I’ll never forget it. Me, because I always worried about stupid stuff, and he’d laugh at the way I’d respond to stress in that way. After really becoming friends, I started to worry less and less, realizing more and more how he had a deep side and really cared deeply for his family and friends. Dang, he really had a way of making me look for the fun and joy in life, but right now his words couldn’t pierce me any deeper. Yes, man, I hear you now. I hear you.”

Mr. Rodriguez was laid to rest on October 1 with a full military funeral that was provided by the U.S. Navy Honor Guard. The family requested that, instead of flowers, donations be made to the Milford High School Wrestling Boosters at Attn: Coach Parsley, 1019 North Walnut Street, Milford DE 19963, or The Wounded Warrior Project (www.legacy.com/memorial-sites/wounded-warrior-project) in the name of Jason Rodriguez. 

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