Rodriguez proud to carry American flag and honor Clemson's military tradition

by - Senior Writer -

CLEMSON – The journey of Daniel RodriguezDaniel Rodriguez
RS Fr. Wide Receiver
#83 5-8, 175
Stafford, VA

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is far from over, but Rodriguez will have yet another defining moment in that journey when he steps out of the bus near Howard’s Rock, grabs an American flag and prepares to lead his teammates down The Hill to the cheers of thousands of Clemson fans.

Making the situation even more special for Rodriguez is that Clemson’s opponent is Virginia Tech, the team that Rodriguez grew up rooting for in his home state of Virginia.

Rodriguez told the media earlier this week that he is excited to be a part of such a special tradition, and he can’t wait to carry the flag on a day that means so much to Clemson – Military Appreciation Day.

“Coach [Dabo] Swinney announced it [he would carry the flag] in a team meeting last week,” he said.
It was kind of rumored, and I heard they have someone honorary do it every year on Military Appreciation Day. I guess my background fits the credentials. It worked out and I am honored to do it. I will be an honorary captain as well. I will also lead the team down the hill with the flag, so I am pretty stocked about it. To see the crowd go crazy with all of the veterans will be awesome. “

The fact that it’s against Virginia Tech makes it even more special.

“It is kind of crazy how things align and things fall into place,” he said. “I was a Virginia Tech fan my whole life, and have friends on the team now. I am playing against the team I pulled for, and it is crazy how everything worked out. Hopefully we will come out of there with a ‘W’ and it is a good day.”

Rodriguez recently dealt with the third anniversary of the Battle of Kamdesh – on October 3rd – a battle that saw eight Americans lose their lives, including friends of Rodriguez, who was wounded in the action.

He said he was aware of the date, and struggled with not only the memories of friends lost, but in dealing with the difference between his life then and his life now.

“I would notice the date, like on expiration dates and stuff like that,” he said. “It’s like your brain knows. I was waking up that morning and kind of bummed and I was having trouble sleeping. I just had to keep pushing through – even at practice I was kind of sluggish. It was tough but I pushed through. Coach Swinney called me out at practice and said, ‘Rodriguez was wounded and bleeding out three years ago today.’ That kind of put it into perspective for me because of where I am today. “

Rodriguez recapped that morning for us this week, including the last hours he spent with his good friend, Kevin Thompson of Reno, Nevada. Thompson was killed in the attack.

“It was just kind of a daily grind,” he said. “You try to look back and recall the last days before you lose a lot of friends. It didn’t seem any different. There wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. It was just a daily grind out there with your buddies. We were just shooting it out. Thompson and I- we were really close- we were just hanging out, talking about good ole times and what we were going to do when we get out, and next thing you know you wake up and that morning hits.

“It’s a whole other world and you don’t realize what’s going on. You don’t realize the significance or the amount of gunfire that came into play until you actually sit back and see what it was. We got hit hard so it was tough. For the few days leading up to it, I can’t really say that there was anything that stood out. It was just a daily grind. You never really think anything is going to happen until it happens. You just have to be prepared and we weren’t. We were caught off guard big time.”

He said that his unit had received reports of an impending attack, but the warnings went unheeded after too many false alarms.

“We had a lot of intelligence going into it, but it was one of those things that you just brush under the rug,” Rodriguez said. “For the two months prior, we were getting reports that they were going to attack us with 300-plus. When you hear that every night for two months, it almost gets to be a thing of crying wolf. Nobody has ever seen that magnitude of a force hit an American post before.”

A book that will be released in November - called “The Outpost” and written by White House correspondent Jake Tapper- features the battle and Rodriguez.

“It’s about that battle and I’m in it,” he said. . “He interviewed me a couple of times. He goes into the political side of it and the letters of reprimand that went out to the generals about us- we weren’t supposed to be there. There are a lot of higher ups that were involved with us being there and not supposed to be there, intelligence, lack of intelligence. What I account for is the boots on the ground- who was fighting that day. In that regard, I’ll never sell short of what we had to do. Whether we were supposed to be there or not, those were my buddies that were killed and those were the men that I had to kill. I never degrade that in any sense. It was tough, but it is what it is.”

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