STICKNEY – Marine Sgt. Greg Rodriguez of Stickney was getting ready for his deployment to Iraq when fate intervened in the form of a Ford pickup in March 2006.
Rodriguez, now 30, and a friend were pulling out of a driveway in San Diego when their car was struck by the truck. It killed Rodriguez’s friend, put Rodriguez in a coma for a month, damaged his brain and changed the Marine’s life forever.
On April 11, 2014, after returning from a trip to Colorado, Rodriguez found himself in a celebratory parade of fire and police vehicles that took him from the Jewel Foods parking lot to his home on Clarence Avenue, where about 300 people were waiting to welcome the Marine home.
Among those were friends, family, village officials and about 100 people in orange, Home Depot T-shirts who, for the past week, had been remodeling the kitchen, building a deck and doing landscaping – not only the Rodriguez home, but also sprucing up the entire block in which they live – all compliments of the Home Depot Foundation.
Home Depot District Manager Joan Morris said it was part of an annual event where the company supplies the goods and then recruits volunteers from its stores in the area to supply the elbow grease.
“Our CEO Frank Blake has spent an enormous amount of time giving back,” Morris said. “The Home Depot Foundation works on veterans projects every year. We try to get as many done as possible and we try to find a vet who needs some help in some way shape or form, and we work on giving to them in any way we can.”
Greg Rodriguez had spent months in therapy in San Diego, Minnesota and Hines Hospital in Maywood. The accident has left him with problems walking as well as speaking.
His mother, Fabiana Rodriguez, said her son enrolled for the fall semester at Morton College with the intention of becoming a teacher in mathematics, his favorite subject.
As for the madhouse that was going on around her, Fabiana Rodriguez said she was very happy.
“I never expected this,” she said. “It’s incredible, and I thank everyone very much. As for Home Depot, I can’t believe it.”
Stickney Mayor Debbie Morelli said she was thrilled when she heard Home Depot’s plans to help the Rodriguez family.
“It’s just so good to be bringing a veteran home and celebrating instead of for some other reason,” she said. “It brings the community together, and it shows support and togetherness from all of us. We’re happy to have Greg home.”