Fundraiser held for veteran who drowned saving 2 kids from Medina River

Rodney Buentello killed saving 2 kids from drowning

SAN ANTONIO – A fundraiser was held Sunday for a retired U.S. Marine Corps master sergeant who died saving two children from drowning.

Rodney Buentello was 43 years old when he died in June while saving two kids from drowning in the Medina River at Bandera City Park. The Buentello family were enjoying a day at the park when they witnessed a girl and a boy swept under the water.

"He went to go out on the dam and he turned around and looked at me and I just told him ‘Don't.’ I said ‘Don't.’ He just looked at me and just went out," Lisa Buentello said.

Lisa said her husband, who received two Purple Hearts during three tours as a Marine, was also a strong swimmer.

"He was struggling a little, but he looked at me and took his last breath and just went down and pushed the kid out," Buentello said.

After her husband's death, Lisa Buentello discovered another blow; she said she had thought they were covered by life insurance from the Marine Corps.

"But unfortunately when he retired, it didn't transfer over," said Buentello.

Saddled with grief, mounting costs to bury her husband and the financial burdens associated with the loss of her husband's income, the young widow wasn't quite sure how to make ends meet. But a local nonprofit, Heart 2 Heart 4U, organized a fundraiser at VFW Post 8541.

"This has helped me pay for his funeral arrangements. This will help me and the boys for the next couple of months until I can do more," said Buentello.

She said the costs of being a Marine's wife have been high.  

Rodney Buentello suffered brain and shoulder injuries, had severe post-traumatic stress disorder and had tremendous struggles with survivor's guilt from his men that fought under him that were killed in action.  

"He wore that burden," Lisa Buentello said. 

Part of his therapy was returning to his high school alma mater, John Jay High School, to coach football and work as a teacher's aide. During his time at John Jay, Rodney quickly became well respected among his peer and a student favorite.

"Every student every young person that he could help he did. He volunteered his time to coach," said Buentello.

To learn more about the group that sponsored fundraising efforts for the Buentello family, click here.