Marine SgtMaj charged with hate crime for attacking Iraqi restaurant server raises issue of unaddressed PSTD


After a now-retired Marine Sergeant Major lost his cool in an Iraqi-themed restaurant in Portland, questions are arising as to whether or not his actions were one of malice or mental trauma inflicted during his time in the War on Terror.

Twenty-year Marine Sergeant Major Damien T. Rodriguez was slapped with a hate crime after entering an Iraqi restaurant in April. Refusing to order anything, he and a colleague sat in the eatery for over an hour before shouting racial slurs and other profanity.

Suddenly, without warning, the 40-year-0ld Rodriguez picked up a folding chair and struck a server. In short order, he was pinned down by every available individual.

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However, it soon became clear that the Sergeant Major -who was subsequently forced to retire- was suffering from PTSD. Unfortunately, the felony hate crime he is being charged with prevents him from being tried in a specialized court that would help him seek treatment.

Rodriguez, is an interesting case- he’s white, was raised by a Nigerian stepfather, married a Guatemalan woman, and for years counted on an Iraqi next-door neighbor to help his family during deployments.

“How can they say I hate Iraqis? I gave my soul for Iraq,” he said.

The Iraqi restaurant owner, Ghaith Sahib, doesn’t see it that way- and wants Rodriguez to pay for it- dearly.

“My family, they have fear now in everything- we can’t forget this,” Sahib said, recounting coming to the US as a refugee from Iraq over ten years ago. “I feel for this guy, but he cannot do what he does. He must face consequences.”

“I’m sorry about what happened,” he told the New York Times. “But no one tries to understand what we went through.”

Likewise, American Legion Post Commander Sean Davis claimed he was “torn” in a social media post, but seemingly sided with Sahib and his family.

“A couple nights ago a combat veteran, a Marine E8 with two tours in Iraq went to my good friends’ Iraqi food restaurant in my neighborhood and committed a hate crime,” Davis wrote. “I’m very torn about this.”

Friends and family of the Marine veteran insist that four deployments have left him a shattered man, having sustained the burden of command while also sustaining heavy casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan.

According to the Bend Bulletin, the Sergeant Major can’t even bring up an April of 2004 battle in Ramadi without crying- a moment in his life that resulted in a Bronze Star and 10 enemy combatants killed by his hand.

For men like Winston Jaugan, who was Rodriguez’s comrade, there was no help available for them when they came home bearing the mental scars that war can bring.

“No one had a diagnosis. They would just give us pills for everything- Valium, Ambien. And we would drink,” he said.

For many, SGM Rodriguez was simply a man who was pushed too far- and finally broke.

Meanwhile, the maligned military hero awaits his December trial, which will determine if he becomes a felon or not- effectively stripping him of many rights he fought so hard to protect.

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