On the day he gained his U.S. citizenship in 1969 Rodriguez celebrated the honor by volunteering for combat in Vietnam. "I lost the country of my birth to Communism,” he explained. "I know freedom must be protected. And I feel I owe it to my adopted country."
Felix flew over 300 helicopter combat missions in Vietnam, and was shot down five times.
He won the coveted Intelligence Star for Valor from the CIA and nine Crosses for Gallantry from the Republic of South Vietnam. Later he battled Communists in El Salvador using a helicopter "mobile strike unit" scheme he developed in Vietnam. He flew over 100 combat missions in Central America, captured the FMLF’s top commander and helped crush those Communist- terrorists decisively. All this was volunteer work.
Later, as a CIA operative, Rodriguez played a key role in tracking down and capturing Che Guevara in Bolivia and was the last to question him. “Finally I was face to face with the assassin of thousands of my countrymen, of hundreds of my patriot friends,” he recalls. But his mission was trying to save Che’s life, to transport him to the Southern Command in Panama for questioning.
Alas, Felix’s Bolivian allies viewed the matter differently. And it was, after all, their nation under Communist attack. So they decided on a policy that has since become a favorite among Americans who encounter (so-called) endangered species on their property: "Shoot, shovel, and shut-up."
Castro really wants Felix Rodriguez’s head and has sent hit-team, after hit-team, after hit-team (including one lent to him by his late chum Yasser Arafat) to murder Felix and his family in Florida. In May 1975 General Joaquin Zenteno, a Bolivian officer who worked with Rodriguez on Che’s capture, was murdered on a Paris street.
“You’re next,” heard Felix Rodriguez when he picked up the phone a few days later. “Click.”
“When you get to Miami,” Cuban political prisoner Roberto Martin-Perez heard from one of his jailers the day of his release in 1987, “tell your friend Felix Rodriguez his days are numbered. It’s one of Fidel’s top priorities.”
But Felix Rodriguez has foiled all of Castro’s murder plots against him, and until last year served as the proud president of The Bay of Pigs Veterans Association.