Photo Information

Rct. Rafael Rodriguez, with Alpha Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, conducts an interview on Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island S.C., September 2, 2021. The twins are from Hinesville Ga. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Michelle Brudnicki)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Michelle Brudnicki

By Blood and by Title

30 Sep 2021 | Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island

From the moment they were born Rafael and Shya Rodriguez have had each other’s backs. Recently, they faced one of the hardest obstacles of their life as they attempted to become U.S. Marines.
When they were young, their parents separated and their mother worked long hours to support her three children by herself. Their older sister Sach’e, who helped to take care of them, filled their missing fathers’ shoes as the disciplinary figure.
“I’ve come to understand why my sister took up a role as ‘dad’,” Rafael said. “She picked up a lot of extra slack and gave me a foundation of discipline.”
During most days their mother would be working, and their sister would take care of things at home, said Rafael. The twins supported each other and when things became difficult or stressful, they would spend time together to help one another cope with the situation.
“When things were getting rough, she was always there for me,” Rafael said, referring to his sister Shya. “Without her I don’t know where I would be right now.”
During senior year of high school, Rafael looked into the military and decided the Marine Corps was the right option for him. It looked like for the first time in the twins’ lives, they would be separated.
“I joined up first,” said Rafael. “My mother was super supportive of me, and was already proud of the decision I was making.”
Shya said she originally considered joining the Air Force, but after being informed of the opportunities available for her and her brother, she was motivated to talk to the Marine recruiter instead.
“If you knew me in high school this is the last place you’d expect me to be,” said Shya. “I considered the Air Force, but I knew I wanted to challenge myself. I talked to my brother and realized the Marines is where I should be.”
On June 14, 2021, the twins shipped to Parris Island together and Rafael was placed in Alpha Company and his sister in Oscar.
Shya said she encountered some adversity in the beginning of recruit training, but with the support of her family and discipline instilled by her drill instructors, she pushed herself through every challenge that stood in her way.
“I hope Rafael is as proud of me as I am of myself,” Shya said. “A lot of people didn’t expect me to join or believe in me, but I’m so proud of how far I’ve come now.”
Rafael said he looks forward to the moment he is not only brother and sister with Shya through blood, but by title as well.
“Me and my sister haven’t always had it easy,” said Rafael. “When things got hard, we stuck together and got past it, this is another one of those things we will get through together.”
On September 3, 2021, after 13 demanding weeks, the siblings earned the title of United States Marine, together. They graduated from recruit training on September 17 and spent their time celebrating this accomplishment together with their mother and sister.

Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island