USA Cares

Jesus Martinez Rodriguez

When Jesus Martinez Rodriguez sent his family’s Christmas photograph to his case manager, he knew it wasn’t required or even necessary.

“I just felt that it was good to show the faces behind the help,” Jesus explained. “I wanted USA Cares and its donors to see the people they affect, that we’re real.”

Jesus and his wife live in Puerto Rico with their two daughters. As an Air Force veteran, Jesus received a 90-percent disability rating from the VA after he left the service in 2007.

“I’m 90-percent but I’m paid 100-percent because I’m considered unemployable,” Jesus explained. “So, I receive decent money, but my wife always worked up until this last spring.”

In April of 2023, Jesus’ youngest daughter was diagnosed with autism.

“I think it took a while for my wife and me to come to terms with it,” Jesus said. “People had been telling us to have her evaluated, but when the psychologist confirmed it, it still kind of rattles you.”

The family was inundated with resources, but it was apparent to Jesus and his wife that she would have to quit her job to care for their daughter full-time. The decision meant the family could no longer pay all their bills. Jesus knew he had to find a solution fast.

“When Hurricane Maria came through (in 2017), we didn’t have electricity for months,” Jesus said. “It’s horrible but you can make it. When we lost water, well, you can’t survive long without water. I just didn’t want my family to lose water.”

Because Puerto Rico is considered a US territory, many state-run agencies and departments are simply not available to residents. As Jesus began reaching out to national organizations, he eventually found USA Cares. After his application was approved, Jesus received assistance with the car and electric bills and was provided food cards for his family.

“Up until that point, we had been carrying this deficit from month to month,” Jesus said. “I told my wife the other day, I said, ‘It feels really nice not having that pressure this month.’”

For Jesus, USA Cares provided him and his family with some hope during a difficult life transition.

“It showed me that people saw me and my family’s worth,” Jesus explained. “People heard my story, recognized my service, and they wanted to help. That’s amazing.”