Proud Parents Become USO Volunteers to Honor Son’s Ultimate Sacrifice
Thursday, September 08, 2011
By Tom Sileo
Septembers are always difficult for the Roddy family. This year, the ninth month on the calendar is even more emotional.
Five days after the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Robert and Carol Roddy will mark the five-year anniversary of another day that changed their lives. On Sept. 16, 2006, their son, Petty Officer 2nd Class David Roddy, 32, was killed while conducting combat operations against enemy forces in Iraq’s Al Anbar province.
“He was on a ship during 9/11,” Carol told the USO. “Then he met up with some sailors who talked to him about EOD.”
EOD stands for explosive ordnance disposal, (see this recent article on EOD on USO.org), is one of the most dangerous jobs known to mankind. EOD technicians are tasked with disabling bombs – often improvised explosive devices – capable of killing or injuring hundreds of troops and civilians.
Every time Petty Officer 2nd Class Roddy took apart a bomb on the battlefield, people were spared.
“David’s work helped save the lives of 20,000 soldiers, sailors and Marines based in Al Anbar province,” said commander of Roddy’s EOD unit Capt. Frank Morneau, at Roddy’s funeral in Abingdon, Md.
Roddy’s mom said that since he was a boy, her son was interested in the military.
“Going back, I look at pictures and even as a little boy he was playing G.I. Joe,” Carol said. “He became intrigued with the Navy in high school.”
It’s one thing for a child or teenager to aspire for a military career. But for a parent, it’s a whole different ballgame if their son or daughter decides to actually join.
“We were a little concerned, to say the least, but we were also extremely proud of him,” Carol said.
When Roddy later told his dad that he wanted to disable bombs on post-9/11 battlefields, it brought a sense of danger to their Maryland doorstep.
“He was in Japan when he said he was coming home for more schooling,” Robert said. “I couldn’t believe it at first.”
While also worried about her son’s safety, Carol knew it fit her son’s personality.
“He loved taking things apart,” she recalled. “Even at one point, Bob had his boat in the garage and he came home, and the motor was all over the garage. David said, ‘Well Dad, I’m fixing it for you!’”
Just after Petty Officer 2nd Class Roddy arrived in Iraq in June 2006, his parents said he sounded upbeat during phone calls. Then, their son saw the ugly, harsh reality of war.
“His partner stepped on an IED and was blown up in front of him,” Carol said. “He called us afterwards and said he was the one who put the pieces in the body bags. That really got to him.”
After he was hit by a truck and badly injured during a previous deployment to Japan, the military gave Roddy a chance to go home. He was given another chance to leave after his friend’s death, and for the second time, he refused.
“I am here to fight this war,” he once told his parents. “I am here for my country.”
When Roddy’s valiant fight tragically ended while trying to disable a bomb in Al Anbar province, Carol and Robert’s new mission began. 9/16 was their 9/11 and they wanted to make sure that no man or woman who selflessly serves their country was ever forgotten or overlooked.
In April 2008, the Roddys, who became involved with several military-themed organizations, started volunteering at the USO International Gateway Lounge at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. The lounge, run by USO of Metropolitan Washington, is a “home away from home” for tens of thousands of traveling troops each year.
At first, it was hard for Carol to be the “welcome mom” for young troops passing through the airport, who often reminded her of David. But as her open arms lifted their spirits, their strength lifted hers.
“To be with the soldiers – some of the men and women who are just coming back or leaving – I just want to make them feel good about it,” Carol said. “A lot of them are coming in.”
“I find it very gratifying to know that we can help these young men and women,” Robert, a Vietnam veteran, added. “For a lot of the younger troops, it’s their first time away from home and I want to help them through their deployments.”
United Through Reading®’s Military Program, which is available for troops and military families at many USO centers around the world, is particularly moving to the Roddys, who love connecting children with their deployed parents.
“I only wish my son could have done it,” Carol said, adding that she keeps in close touch with her son’s widow in Iowa. She and Robert also Skype and text message with their 15-year-old granddaughter.
While Petty Officer 2nd Class David Roddy isn’t physically with his family, being two of 270 USO volunteers at BWI, is helping the his parents keep his memory alive.
“He’s so alive in our book – and in our hearts,” Carol said. “I just don’t want him to be forgotten.”
While remembering all the innocent people killed on Sept. 11, 2001, let us also pay tribute to the men and women in uniform who have paid the ultimate price for freedom over the past ten years. As Robert and Carol Roddy prove, the families they left behind – like the families of 9/11 victims – are national treasures.
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