Jose Rodela (saluting) receiving his Medal of Honor along with Melvin Morris (left) and Santiago Erevia at the White House on March 18, 2014, (Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images), and below visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (Defense Department photo).
During 2019, Freedoms Foundation and the Friends of the Medal of Honor Grove are paying tribute to the living recipients of the Medal of Honor on the anniversary of the actions for which they earned the nation’s highest award for valor. The series continues with Sergeant First Class Jose Rodela, who, on Sept. 1, 1969, provided leadership and inspiration in repelling an enemy attack on his battalion’s position in Phuoc Long Province, South Vietnam.
Jose Rodela’s Medal of Honor citation reads:
“Sergeant First Class Jose Rodela distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty while serving as the company commander, Detachment B-36, Company A, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces during combat operations against an armed enemy in Phuoc Long Province, Republic of Vietnam on September 1, 1969.
“That afternoon, Sergeant First Class Rodela’s battalion came under an intense barrage of mortar, rocket, and machine gun fire. Ignoring the withering enemy fire, Sergeant First Class Rodela immediately began placing his men into defensive positions to prevent the enemy from overrunning the entire battalion.
“Repeatedly exposing himself to enemy fire, Sergeant First Class Rodela moved from position to position, providing suppressing fire and assisting wounded, and was himself wounded in the back and head by a B-40 rocket while recovering a wounded comrade.
“Alone, Sergeant First Class Rodela assaulted and knocked out the B-40 rocket position before successfully returning to the battalion’s perimeter.
“Sergeant First Class Rodela’s extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit and the United States Army.”
“The war, and the memory of close friends who didn’t survive that battle still haunt the veteran and he’d prefer to leave the battle and the results far away. … During the battle, Rodela lost his two best friends, Green Berets SSG Rudy Chavez and SFC Joe Haga …
“After Vietnam, Rodela was assigned to the 7th Special Forces Group and utilizing his Spanish language skills, he served in Colombia and many other countries in Latin America before retiring from the Army in 1975. He went into business with a Latin American seamstress making maternity clothes for a while but has lived quietly since.
“Until his DSC was upgraded to the MOH, his own children didn’t know about his exploits. Asked why, he said, ‘because you have the mission of giving them orders and they don’t come back.’
“It is doubtful, the proud and private Rodela will be making many appearances as a speaker. ‘I can’t forget it, it’s just I don’t repeat it. I don’t want to repeat it. There was a lot of people hurt, a lot of people who never came back. Let them rest,’ Rodela said.
“Rodela still lives, quietly in San Antonio.”
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