Rodney Buentello was already a hero before he died: 20-year Marine, three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, two Purple Hearts and over 40 military decorations, as you can see from this picture of him.
Then on June 8, 2016 he died saving two teenagers who were drowning in San Antonio, Texas, three weeks shy of his 44th birthday.
Rodney grew up in San Antonio where he attended John Jay High School.
On June 8th he had just resigned as an assistant football coach at his alma mater and was preparing to start a new job. He, his wife Lisa, and his two young children were enjoying a day at Bandera City Park, about 50 miles from his home, when a teenage girl fell into rushing water from the top of a nearby aqueduct and a second teenage boy jumped in to try to save her and was himself swept underwater by the swift current.
Realizing that he had at best a matter of seconds to save them, Rodney jumped in and pushed both to safety before he too was dragged under by the current. When rescue personnel arrived it was too late to save him.
“He went into the Marines to try and emulate me. He far exceeded,” said Raul Buentello, Rodney’s dad.
A close friend, Pete Pruneda, told the local television station: “I wasn’t surprised by his heroic action. He was trained to save lives. He saved countless lives in the military and I think it was his calling to be at that moment in time to save two lives and tragically give up his own in the process.”
In recognition of his heroism and the love felt for him at John Jay High School, a vigil was held there and attended by hundreds of his friends and kids he had mentored. See picture, below.
A GoFundMe account was also created to help his family, as Rodney had no life insurance. To date, they have raised over $80,000 in small contributions. Julie and I have since joined that effort to honor him by helping his family.
Once a Marine, always a Marine. Service above self, no matter the circumstances. In war or peace. Fast thinking and courage when split second action means the difference between life and death.
A hero for our times.
Rodney , we just wish you could have stayed a little while longer to raise your sons and enjoy the good life you so richly deserved.
Requiescat in pace.
If you would like to help Rodney’s family, the GoFundMe account for Marine MSGT Rodney Buentello will remain active until December 31, 2016. — Jim