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Four years ago, Mario Rodriguez was a rifleman in the United States Marine Corps (USMC). Now, the computer science major, with a specialization in information, is preparing to graduate next month and become a software developer. As one of 23 veterans in the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences (ICS) — and 167 veterans (including both active duty and reservists) at UCI — Rodriguez has the full support of UCI’s Veteran Services Center (VSC), which provides veterans with the “world-class benefits and services they have earned.” Rodriguez talks here about his service as a Marine and how he typically spends his Veterans Day.

Can you tell us a bit about your service?
I was a rifleman in the United States Marine Corps for four years from 2011 to 2015, stationed at Camp Pendleton, California. During that time, I earned the promotion of corporal meritoriously and became a squad leader in charge of 12 other Marines. All those years, I was under the command of 1st Battalion 5th Marines 1st Marine Division. As the war was coming to an end, we shifted to serve multiple deployments as the Marine Expeditionary Unit across the pacific. In those deployments to Japan, Thailand, Guam, South Korea and Australia, we created partnerships with the armies in those countries to increase readiness and increase the NATO capabilities around that area.

Mario Rodriguez in Australia with 1st Platoon, Alpha Company, 1/5 Marine Division holding a flag during an extensive month-long training event (left) and in the Australian backcountry, checking his watch to ensure coordination with the fire-for-support team before opening fire to a fixed enemy position during a live-fire training (right).

What brought you to UCI?
I came to UCI because of the incredible computer science program. The School of Information and Computer Sciences is one of the best in the country. By being separate from the engineering department, it allows students to focus more on their major and take more core computer science classes. Before I made a decision on where to transfer from Saddleback College, I already knew I wanted to come to UCI. I lived close by, and after visiting the campus on different occasions, I fell in love with it. It is really awesome to walk around campus and feel like you are not in a university because of Aldrich Park in the middle of it all.

What are your future plans?
After I graduate, I plan on getting a job as a software developer in January 2020. I am also interested in consulting, but I have applied for different positions to have options before I decide what I really want to do. The field of computer science is so vast that there are many different paths I could take for my career. A dream job for me would be to work for the FBI or CIA developing new technology. I am really excited to get out there and start working in the industry.

How do you usually spend your Veterans Day?
On Veterans Day, I like to get together with fellow veteran friends. We usually spend the day celebrating and thanking the lives of other veterans before us who gave a lot to protect this beautiful country of ours. Every other year, a big group of us like to hike the “First Sergeant Hill” at Camp Pendleton, California. We choose to hike this hill as it represents the hardships we encountered during our time of service. It also represents how thankful we are to be able to serve our country and to give thanks to the many men and women who gave their lives to protect us all.

Anything else you’d like to add?
I would love for veterans here at UCI to reach out to other students to share their experiences and lessons learned throughout their years of service. Many younger students would love to hear about the experiences we faced and learn about the life lessons we gained from serving in the military. Semper Fidelis!

If you’re a veteran who would like to share your experiences, or if you’d like to learn from those who served our country, visit the VSC on the third floor of the Student Center.

Shani Murray