LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — Lance Corporal William Z. Rodgerson, a 2010 South Laurel High School graduate, recently made his family’s holiday season a little more special when he returned home early after serving a six-month tour of duty in Afghanistan.
Rodgerson, one of the first Marines in his family, is currently serving in the military occupational specialty (MOS) 1812, M1A1 Abrams Tank Crewman as part of Delta Company in the 2nd Marine Division, 2nd Tank Battalion, in Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Rodgerson arrived at basic training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, S.C. on May 1, 2011.
“I didn’t come from a Marine Corps family,” Rodgerson said. “I wanted the challenge of the Marine Corps; I wanted to be the first Marine in my family.”
Rodgerson successfully met his goal, graduating from boot camp, Marine Combat Training and MOS training at Fort Benning, Ga.
Rodgerson was deployed to Shir Ghazay, Helmand, Afghanistan in May.
“The entire deployment, we would go days or even weeks without hearing from Willie,” said his mother, Robin Rodgerson. “I would go days without leaving the house because I was afraid that I was going to miss his call.”
With his family nervously waiting for his safe return, Rodgerson was serving as one of four crew members in his M1A1 Tank, dubbed “The Show Pony,” one of 14 Marine Corps tanks he deployed with.
“We had a lot of downtime over there,” Rodgerson said. “It gave us lots of time to build unit cohesion and camaraderie. We saw sides of each other that you don’t normally see back in the states.”
Rodgerson said, when he and his unit were called to action, most of the time the enemy would be gone by the time the tanks came rolling in.
“You know the old Marine Corps saying, ‘hurry up and wait,’ well there was lots of that,” Rodgerson said.
Despite earning a Combat Action Ribbon, a personal decoration awarded to those who have actively participated in combat, and two of his unit’s tanks being severely damaged by IEDs, Rodgerson and his company came home safely.
“Everyone came back,” Rodgerson said. “That was our mission.”
And when the Marine Corps brought the 2nd Tank Battalion home, everyone did in fact make it home — and his mother is eternally grateful.
“We are so thrilled to have him home,” Robin Rodgerson said. “It’s such a weight lifted off our shoulders. We had heard that he was coming home early but we weren’t sure. We didn’t want to get our hopes up. But I’m so happy he got to spend Christmas and New Year’s home with his family. It was the best Christmas present ever.”
Rodgerson will return to Camp Lejeune, N.C. on Jan. 7, where he hopes to serve the time remaining on his contract.