Listen as Tony Nash talks to Daniel Rodriguez, also known as Danny del Ray, a decorated United States Army combat veteran, public speaker, athlete, author, and recording artist.
He is known for his inspiring story of bravery during the Battle of Kamdesh in 2009 and starred as himself in The Outpost, a 2020 movie based on the engagement.
Danny firmly believes in living with purpose and turning anything negative in his life into something good. After losing his friend and battle buddy, Kevin Thompson, in the Battle of Kamdesh, Danny fulfilled his promise to his fallen comrade to play college football.
Upon returning to the US, he spent his last penny to produce a recruitment video that later on went viral. He was signed on as a walk-on receiver for Clemson University's NCAA football team. He attributes his love for sports to his father, who would have wanted an Olympian in the family.
Among the lessons he learned from the military that he still implements to this day are being disciplined and goal-oriented.
“It can be a gift and a curse… It is definitely a defining characteristic. I need a competitive edge. If you want something, you gotta stay disciplined. If you really want it, you gotta stay consistent.”
Focus on Health, Passion & Family
After playing college football, Danny shifted gears to prioritize his health and other dreams – music and acting.
He says he felt the need to focus on his well-being after realizing he had already suffered a lot of concussions and that a lot of his veteran friends were committing suicide. He then began his advocacy for holistic medication and hemp for medical use, especially for suffering athletes and veterans.
By then, he started his career in acting and music. He shares how he told The Outpost production team that he would want to act as himself and even volunteered to pay for his way to Bulgaria where they were shooting it. In the end, his guts and persistence paid off, as the team took him in and rewrote the script.
His journey as an actor and singer also led him to change his perspective on his origin. Danny, who was of Mexican descent, shares how he disliked being referred to as Hispanic growing up, owing to discrimination. This changed when he went to speak in a poor community in California, where half the audience could not understand him as they only spoke Spanish. It shook him and made him accept who he really is. Now, he is studying Spanish in Colombia and says he wants to reach more people as a public speaker, actor, and singer.
Biggest Failure Turned Success
The 2009 Battle of Kamdesh has greatly impacted Danny’s life. It caused him pain, loss, and physical and mental injuries. But the experience and his promise to Kevin pushed him to move forward and live for those who died that fateful day.
He recalls the confusion and anger he felt upon returning to the US. But on those difficult days, he recalls holding onto his promise and the memory of Kevin.
“I gotta go do this. I gotta go live right for my friends. The Taliban wins if I off myself over here. Fuck them. The fight’s not over, the mission’s not over, so I gotta keep going.”
“I’m trying to do what I’ve always wanted to do in my life. Today or yesterday is kinda a checkpoint for us veterans who have fought in the wars that have come to an end…. I think if that book closes, it’s an opportunity for a new chapter to be written.”
Now, Danny vows to always be prepared for the future – not because he fears failure, but because he fears not being ready when the opportunities come knocking – much like that overnight success of his viral video.
“Be ready for what you want and if you’re not ready, you’re not gonna get it. It’s gonna pass you by…. Even if I fucking fail at it, at least I’m prepared for it.”
A slayer of stereotypes and routines, Danny is all about showing up, embracing goals, and not just winging it – a mindset that he wants others to embody.
“People just wake up in the morning, they don’t show up. I wish more people would show up…. they’re going after what they want and not just a routine or a habitual pattern.”
At the end of the day, he says “shit happens to everybody.” No one can control the life they were born into, but he says they can always help themselves.
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