Podchaser Logo

Ep. 29 "Dead Soldier," Carmelo's American Story

Released Friday, 28th May 2021
Good episode? Give it some love!
Carmelo Rodriguez was born in New York City.  He spent his early youth in NYC, followed by shuttling between Pennsylvania and New York in his later teen years.

Carmelo joined the military when he was 18 years old.  He felt it was the only way to get out and escape the poverty which engulfed him.  

Homelessness and hunger were not foreign to Carmelo as a child.  He understood what it was to fight for every meal and every well rested night of sleep.  Carmelo was grateful for every glass of fresh water.  He calls it the lowest point of his life.

For the first time in his life, Carmelo felt peace in the most unlikeliest of places, basic training.  Never in his 19 years had he felt safe.

After completing basic training at Fort Knox and a stint in Korea, Carmelo was shipped to the border of Canada.  It was there he was introduced to "weatherizing."  The soldiers ran in shorts through 8 feet of snow. 

Carmelo arrived in Iraq as a dismount.  His responsibility was to to find the bad guys and bring them in.

A few months into the deployment, Carmelo took on a new position as gunner.  He describes feeling like "the man, GI Joe, or Rambo" behind the powerful weapon.

Carmelo volunteered for a second deployment, but his military career abruptly ended.  His lungs had several holes caused from near IED explosions.

Coming home from deployment was a confusing time.  Carmelo saw veteran buddies give in to substance abuse.  He feared going down the same path.  Returning troops miss the high from constant guard and danger.  Some search for the next high in drugs and alcohol.

Carmelo was heading down a dangerous path.  As a student at Penn State, he was surrounded by 18 year olds, critical of war and the military.  Vietnam vets were Carmelo's biggest help.  They showed him the way back.

Carmelo was engulfed in school and work.  He did not see the upcoming crisis.  Family and friends left several messages on his phone, begging for Carmelo to call back and assure them he was alive.

Carmelo received his first letter from the VA, addressed to the estate of Carmelo Rodriguez, under the guise he had died on October 31, 2016.

The letter was followed by a check in the mail for burial allowance; multiple death notifications of his benefits ceasing, and a final benefit check.   The IRS informed Carmelo he was being investigated for for fraud.

Carmelo's bank account was shut down.  He no longer attended school, a place he found refuge with other vets.  

Carmelo had nowhere to turn.  Fifty attorneys turned down his case.  

After some persuasion from friends, Carmelo contacted the national news.  The wheels began to grind.  A mysterious, anonymous caller gave Carmelo specific steps to end the catastrophe.

Carmelo never found out who the caller was, but after two years the VA resurrected him from the dead.  He was back.

Carmelo wrote a book, "Dead Soldier," detailing his road back to the living.  That book is now in production as a movie.

Carmelo is an author of 11 books, entrepreneur, motivational speaker, and veteran.  He is proof ANYONE in AMERICA can achieve success.

You can find Carmelo on Carmelo Rodriguez Facebook