Army veteran Ashley Rodriguez had dreams of one day entering military service to protect the country, but instead experienced trauma, pain, and a financial disaster – which turned her into the incredible person she is today.
When a young military recruit raises their right hand to take the oath to serve their country from enemies, foreign and domestic, they have preconceived notions of what that enemy looks like.
But no recruit would ever think that enemy would come from her own unit.
But that is part of Ashley Rodriguez’s story. She enlisted in the military at the young age of 21. It wasn’t long before she went through an experience no woman ever should have to go through – sexual assault. Being so young, she didn’t know what to do.
“I did not make the initial report because I was brand new to my unit at the time and did not want to cause a scene,” Ashley said.
As fate would have it, Ashley ran into the same assailant years later at another unit. She reported it, but due to the time between the assault and the report, the case was not pursued.
Ashley sought and found help. But the traumatic experience will stay with her for the rest of her life.
After she left the military to raise a family, she pursued another life-long dream – start a business.
“I decided to open an indoor play facility for families in 2021 in my city. It was quite expensive. I was on the line for about $100,000, not including our lease. But the business was booming,” Ashley said.
However, her landlord had a change of strategy that severely impacted her business.
“They originally wanted us in the space because our business plan was extensive and proved to be a strong model. However, the corporate landlord relied on national brands for recognition to bring in more investments to the plaza. They ultimately decided not to reimburse us for our renovations,” Ashley said. “I had to accept a personal bankruptcy at the age of 28.”
But that didn’t stop her; it only fueled her passion to succeed. Ashley now runs a marketing firm, is in the process of writing her biography, and is working towards becoming a keynote speaker.
Going through these life challenges has taught her a lot; they are lessons she wants to tell other women.
“Persevere. It never is as bad as it seems at the time – and even if it is, it’s a learning opportunity. It’s a growing opportunity. Eventually, it becomes a sharing opportunity to encourage others. I have learned through my experience to turn pain points into talking points and keep going,” Ashley said.
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