Young Marines in Kabul were left to perform the final days of evacuation
A second generation Cuban American on his father’s side and a second generation American on his mother’s side, Captain Rodriguez followed his father, who had been a Marine Reservist, into the army. He received his bachelor’s degree in human resources management from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, then ended up at Marine Corps Basic School in Quantico at the same time as Captain Ball, in 2013. It was also his first time in Afghanistan. And, like Captain Ball, he had left a pregnant woman at home.
In Kabul, Captain Rodriguez found himself on a mission to save 32 Afghan athletes. Jeff Phaneuf, a former Marine in Princeton, NJ, working with an American organization that was trying to evacuate athletes, had obtained the captain’s cell phone number.
The athletes were in separate groups en route to the airport or already at Abbey Gate. Captain Rodriguez pushed through the crowd to find them.
It was like a phone game with higher stakes. “It was as simple as, ‘What are they wearing? »He recalled his texts with M. Phaneuf. “Then he would tell me: ‘They are 200 meters from the canal. They wear this, ”and then“ They’re in the canal, they’re wearing that. ”And so, in four hours, Captain Rodriguez found the athletes.
Nearby, other Marines were doing the same.
Back in Virginia, Lt. Col. Justin Bellman had tried to get his former interpreter, Walid, through Abbey Gate for 60 hours. During a melee, Walid’s son fell and lost a shoe. Finally, an unknown number showed up on Colonel Bellman’s cell phone as he stood at a bus stop. The appellant identified himself as a Marine.
“Did you give a sign with your phone number on it to an Afghan at Abbey Gate?” The voice asked. “Can you vouch for him?” “
His voice trembling, Colonel Bellman said yes.
– I have eyes on him, said the Marine. “We’re going to bring him in. “