On an August evening in Afghanistan, Staff Sgt. Cody Rhode and his fellow Marines were nearing the end of their deployment and anticipating the return home. Until then, they went about their normal routines.
“It was a joyful time for the Marines,” Rhode said.
He didn’t know he would soon be running for his life.
Rhode was among at least six others involved in an Aug. 10 shooting on their forward operating base in Garmsir District.
The Marines attempted to escape the shooter through a small gap between a chain-link fence and wall of their location.
“(The objective) was getting everybody through the fence, and back to the compound to let everybody else know that this is what’s going on outside,” Rhode said.
Rhode was the last one to get through the fence, but not before being shot four times, in the shoulder and leg.
Rhode said he barely noticed the first four wounds because of his high adrenaline. But the fifth shot shattered his elbow; he knew it was broken because he could see his arm dangling.
Despite this, Rhode kept running to warn his fellow Marines and sailors of the situation.
Rhode managed to reach safety, where his wounds were treated by a corpsman.
“(The corpsman and my fellow Marines) took care of me,” Rhode said. “(The Marines) did whatever they could for everybody else … (the Marines and sailors) did everything they were trained to do. I’m proud of them.”
Rhode was first medically evacuated nearby to Camp Dwyer, then moved to other locations to undergo a total of six surgeries. He continues to recover today.
But the attack ultimately cost 3rd Marine Regiment the lives of Staff Sgt. Scott E. Dickinson, Cpl. Richard A. Rivera Jr. and Lance Cpl. Gregory T. Buckley, who were honored Oct. 29 in a memorial at Dewey Square.
The loss of his fellow Marines was huge for Rhode. They became close while working together throughout the year. It felt like he lost family members.
“You’re not just work partners,” Rhode said of his fellow Marines. “You’re not just people who do a job together. You had to be more than that.”
While being transported from place to place, receiving surgery for his wounds, Rhode also thought about his wife and children at home, and hoped they were doing well. He said he was proud of his wife for all she had done during his recovery process.
Rhode received a Purple Heart Medal Nov. 2 for the injuries he sustained in the attack. The 28-year-old was presented with the medal in a formation near the 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment offices.
“He is an extremely humble Marine who is grateful for the support he has received throughout his healing process,” said 1st Sgt. Justin L. Ezell, the Headquarters Battery first sergeant for 1st Bn., 12th Marines.
A native of Rogers, City, Mich., Rhode enlisted in the Corps “to be a part of something bigger” than himself.
While most recently deployed to Helmand province’s Garmsir District, Rhode was a mobile team platoon sergeant with the Police Advisory Team of 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, contributing to the training needs of the Afghan National Police. His duties included leading the ANP and his fellow Marines on patrols and overseeing his Mobile Team.
“Our time there was spent patrolling the area daily in combined patrols or Marine patrols,” Rhodes said. “The men were tough, always ready at a moment’s notice and proficient in all areas of policing and patrolling.”
Rhode has since left Marine Corps Base Hawaii and is now assigned to Wounded Warrior Battalion West — Detachment Balboa, at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego. He continues to go through physical therapy.
Though four of his wounds have healed into small scars, the biggest scar is on his elbow. Rhode is unable to fully bend his arm inward because of the plate that currently holds his elbow together.
“He still has a long journey to go in the recovery process, but has already made leaps and bounds in the arduous course of mending the wounds he has received,” Ezell said. “This Marine is a true warrior and selfless leader of Marines.”
Although he is not sure what he’ll do upon leaving the Corps, Rhode hopes to be in a position where he can help other people. For now, he plans to stay in the Marine Corps until retirement.
“I don’t know what the future holds for me,” Rhode said. “But I’ve got a good family and the Marine Corps to help me figure that out.”
Article by Kristen Wong, Marine Corps Base Hawaii - Kaneohe Bay