Her name is Gracie M. Rodriguez, Registered Nurse. My wife and I knew her as Mrs. Sillaman when we all did RISD band boosters volunteer work. I almost literally ran into her at the Veteran's Summit. I did not immediately recognize her, and she reminded me that she was the mother of the twin girls. A flood of memories about concession stands, marching bands and football games came to mind.

Gracie worked for Nueces Electric for many years. Going to college part time, it took her 12 years to get her associate's degree as a Licensed Vocational Nurse license. She said that she was 54 years old and achieved her bachelor's degree as an RN in 2004. She said, "I used to get upset really easily but learned to roll with the punches…" overcoming obstacles.

I could see that she finds her job very rewarding working for our U.S. military veterans. Here is something funny that she shared: "I just found out why I get calls from veterans looking for my brother. He assists veterans anyway he can. He visits the sick and elderly veterans, who at times do not have anyone to turn to for help or guidance." Gracie repeated the statement about her brother and added, "I can't believe I just found this out. He's been helping veterans forever." Her brother's deeds could certainly be another story in itself. If you would like to contact Gracie for guidance and direction on VA benefits, contact her at: gracie.rodriguez@va.gov.

I told Gracie that she appeared very happy working as a Nurse Manager for the VA Clinic. I hope that this wonderful success story inspires others to realize that the essence of life comes from not giving up on your dreams or goals but from pursuing those dreams.

Her father was a preacher and died of a heart attack. Her mom died six months later of a stroke. She took care of both of them in their final days on earth. She said her parents raised her to serve, meaning she learned the value of giving from within to help others. Her dad was a hard disciplinarian, and Gracie believes that discipline is something that is missing from many children and adolescents in our current generation.

Gracie glows when she speaks about how much she loves her job; yes it did take years to be a registered nurse. So her final answer on that subject was that she reached her goal and did it because she never gave up trying. She graduated because she persevered and never gave up on her dreams, and she became a role model for her daughters.

There are sons and daughters reading this in their 20s, 30s or 40s who need to know that you can realize any goal if you want to do it. Yes, there are obstacles. However, life's obstacles are there whether you try to attain your ambition or not.

Gracie was a single parent with two daughters. She worried about her daughters, took care of her parents and kept busy going to night school.

She had enough faith and drive to succeed for herself and her family.

Joe Santos Medina is a resident of Robstown. Readers may contact him via email at