(Reviewed by Don Jung)
I have read numerous accounts of the horrors of war, but none so riveting as those depicted in Rise: A Soldier, a Dream, and a Promise Kept. However, this autobiography by Purple Heart and Bronze Star Medal of Valor recipient, Daniel Rodriguez is so much more. It is also an inspiring story of individual purpose and achieving one’s goals.
Rodriguez had a somewhat typical time growing up in Virginia. Like so many teenage boys, he loved sports and partying and had no focus on academics. He finished high school with a 1.9 GPA and no idea of what to do with his life.
When his father died four days after graduation, his life turned upside down. On a whim he decided to join the army, and little did he know what was in store. He describes boot camp and the harsh instructors who trained them to be tough and ready for anything. He talks about his fellow soldiers who came from all walks of life and how they had to learn the ropes in order to pass the mustard…and many couldn’t.
You don’t know who you are until you are sent to a foreign land like Iraq.
It’s no picnic and he tells it like it is as he struggled to be a good soldier in a desert of insecurity. Death was all around, and these soldiers took to drinking when they had a break. They didn’t know if the next stranger they saw would be a friend or the enemy.
He talks about the fifteen months in and around Baghdad, and the soldiers he became friends with. There is no sugar coating when he describes the perils of warfare and walking down the streets knowing that you are the target of countless snipers and terrorists.
The Army sent him to Camp Keating, the northern most base in Afghanistan, lodged at the bottom of three mountain ranges. It was here on October 3, 2009 that the famous battle of Kamdesh took place. He describes only what he saw and felt as he was amidst an 18 hour bloodbath that became a barrage of gunfire, grenades and bombs—300 to 400 Taliban fighters against 53 Americans. Daniel was wounded but witnessed the death of many of his friends.
Once back in the States, he suffered severe PTSD as did other soldiers who made it back alive. Unfortunately many of his fellow soldiers committed suicide. Daniel was ready to do the same—and expands in on this in detail— but then remembered a promise he made to a friend who was killed in that infamous battle.
I don’t want to give too much away, (hint: Clemson Tigers and St. Louis Rams) but now he knew what he needed to do; with a single focus and continued discipline he was well on his way to keeping his promise and making a life for himself. This is the inspiring part of the story, as he was able to achieve this against all odds.
His story is compelling and I strongly recommend it for everyone. It shows how a non-quit attitude and a hard work ethic can make you into the person you want to be. I met Daniel Rodriguez last week at a book signing and at only twenty-seven years old he displayed such maturity and humility. I know that many will learn from his story.
(Note: Sony’s TriStar Productions won the movie rights in a bidding war for Daniel’s story and book.)