From oldest cadet to fitness instructor, cancer survivor helps mold BCSO deputies
Deputy Rodrigue became oldest BCSO cadet at age 59
SAN ANTONIO – Nearly a year after defeating neck cancer, Mark Rodrigue became the oldest cadet to go through the Bexar County Sheriff's Office Academy and graduate.
At 58, Rodrigue accepted Sheriff Javier Salazar's challenge Sept. 2017 to join the department.
"(Salazar) basically was saying, 'Man, I need guys like you, older guys that can set the example. Guys that are in good shape to show that even when you're up there in age, you can still be in good shape and represent the agency,'" Rodrigue said.
Rodrigue's physique, however, had taken a toll prior to meeting Salazar when he was diagnosed with stage 4 neck cancer in May 2016.
"I had neck cancer in my lymph nodes and I had to go through 35 radiation treatments, three rounds of chemotherapy, and a surgery," Rodrigue said.
Rodrigue said while the simplest tasks were tough and he lost 40 pounds during his battle against cancer, he had to fight for his family.
"It was that advanced because I got misdiagnosed twice, so a lot of time passed and it progressed, Rodrigue said. "When I was told that I finally had cancer, it was devastating because I had just adopted a little boy a few years back."
Rodrigue and his wife became foster parents in 2012 after meeting a little boy and his mother at their church and later learned the boy was going to be in state custody.
"I felt an immediate connection to him and he was a special needs child, he has cerebral palsy, and I told my wife we needed to do something for this young mom and her baby because they were under state care," Rodrigue said.
"We visited them every Sunday for about four to six months and then the baby got awarded to the state, which meant he was going into the foster care system," Rodrigue said.
"My wife and I were like, 'We don't have a connection to this child, let's just take him,'" he said.
A year later, the Rodrigue family adopted their son, James, and have since fostered other children, who they also hope to adopt soon.
While becoming parents again -- their biological children out of the house -- Rodrigue worked as a maintenance employee at a local YMCA, the same gym where Salazar worked out.
Salazar learned Rodrigue's military background of serving more than 20 years in the Air Force, with the last three years of his career as a drill instructor, and encouraged him to become a deputy.
"At that point, I was like, 'Excuse me sir, but I am 58 years old. I'm sure you have an age limit in your agency' and he said, 'No, we don't.'"
After excelling in the academy, graduating in Nov. 2017 and spending several months at the Bexar County Jail, Rodrigue transferred to the BCSO Academy.
✌🏾☝🏾👌🏾 NEWS: From defeating neck cancer to nearly a year later graduating as the oldest @BexarCoSheriff cadet, fitness instructor Deputy Rodrigue, 60, is helping mold new BCSO deputies. My feature coming up TONIGHT on @ksatnews AT 9! (cc: @sheriffsalazar) #KSATnews #SanAntonio pic.twitter.com/clZA6CmFlc— Adrian Garcia (@adrianrolgarcia) November 22, 2018
Rodrigue said working in the academy as a physical fitness instructor feels as if he's picking up where he left off.
"Because this a paramilitary structure and we still teach drill like I did when I was an MTI (Military Training Instructor) at Lackland, it's pretty much a typical environment you would see in the military, maybe not quite as intense.
"It's an overwhelming feeling when you see them all come together as a team, as a unit and they have pride in the badge and their work. That's what it's all about," Rodrigue said.
Now at 60 years old, Rodrigue is hoping his story, experience, and hands-on training will help mold new BCSO deputies to the high standards the Sheriff's Office has recently established.
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