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My Journey From Green Beret to Real Estate Agent

by | Mar 11, 2020 | Real Estate

Army veteran Levi Rodgers shares how a career in real estate helped him make a fresh start — and also lend a hand to fellow vets.

By Levi Rodgers, as told to Nancy Robbers

It’s amazing what can happen in 30 seconds that can shape your whole life. That’s happened to me twice, and I’ll never forget either time.

If anybody had told me 20 years ago that I’d wind up a real estate agent heading up a multi-million dollar business in San Antonio, TX, I’d have thought they were nuts. But after a long road full of hard lessons, here I am.

When I was 18, I joined the Army, looking for a new beginning. My first duty station was in Fort Drum, NY, but eventually I was deployed to Bosnia.

One day, I was walking in formation with my squad and I was all suited up — helmet, Kevlar vest — when I saw these Special Forces guys headed into the chow hall ahead of us. They just threw their weapons into their car before heading into the cafeteria, looking and acting so professional, like everything I always thought a soldier should be.

I was just a young service member and in this 30-second moment, I spotted them and thought, “Wow, they’re cool,” and decided I wanted to be just like them.

So I started researching the Green Berets and Special Forces. I was in what was considered a soft skill job in the Army; I wasn’t a Ranger or an Infantry guy — I was support, a heavy equipment operator. But I made it through the selection process at Fort Bragg, NC, and went through two years of schooling there to become an Army Green Beret.

Searching for home

My wife and I married after I became a Green Beret, and we decided to buy a house. We met a real estate agent named Gary Langdon at one of his listings. It was a double-wide trailer, and I loved it because it had a Jacuzzi tub; plus, it was close to the base. That trailer was his listing, but he told me, “No, son.” And he tore up the contract.

Gary said, “Son, this house is going to depreciate, not appreciate.”

I was thinking like the 22-year-old that I was — I mean, it had a Jacuzzi tub! — and I didn’t understand what he meant by his discussions on home values and everything.

He took my wife and me to another home, and it was nice enough — just not the ideal home we pictured. But as it turns out, we lived there for 12 years, thanks to Gary’s 30 seconds of honesty.

Rise and fall

During my Army career, I rose through the enlisted ranks and ended up becoming a chief warrant officer. I was further selected to take command of a Special Forces A-Team, which is a big honor because usually captains are selected for command of the team.

Throughout my time as a Green Beret, I was deployed all over Central America and the Middle East. Most significantly, in 2009 I was in Afghanistan when my team struck an IED, which is an improvised explosive device.

Everybody in the vehicle was killed except me. I lost four of my men, which stays at the forefront of my mind every day that I live.

I don’t remember too much of the event, but my dog handler, Pedro, found me and got to me first. I hadn’t had much interaction with Pedro up to this point — mostly because I didn’t like that dog — but he ran through a crazy situation to save me.

I woke up from an induced coma a few weeks later in San Antonio. I was on life support, about 40 percent of my body was severely burned, my guts had to be rewired, and I’d shattered almost every bone in my body, but with the support of my family, my team members, and my unit, I got through it.

New beginnings

I stayed in San Antonio for about two years, going to rehab and trying to figure things out. In the end, we decided to make San Antonio our home.

I started looking for work, and didn’t realize just how different the civilian world was. I had the military resume of all resumes, but I had trouble finding a job to support my family.

We sold our North Carolina house — we had rented it out for income in the meantime — and ended up making some money off of it. Fifteen years after Gary Landon’s 30 seconds of honesty, I now appreciate how he guided us to make a smart real estate decision.

I decided to take some of my savings and get my real estate license. It seemed like a business I could easily enter and do well in, without anyone slowing me down or holding me back. I would be in control of my own fate.

Continuing to serve

I spent time wondering what markets I wanted to operate in, and was thinking I’d be a luxury home agent. Then my friend Pat Fitzgerald, a military focused mortgage lender, literally slapped me on the back of the head and said, “Man, you’re a blown-up Green Beret; you know you need to help your people.”

He was right. Soldiers and military spouses have a tough time with transition. Military people leave the service making pretty good money and have great benefits, but the business world largely doesn’t understand how to translate those military experiences into a comparable job. Businesses need managers with degrees and experience, not someone who can do a 25,000 high-altitude, low-opening parachute jump.

Pat taught me everything I needed to know about Texas veteran loans, and about working with the Veterans Administration and the Texas Veterans Land Board. He helped me develop my real estate knowledge and skills, teaching me everything I needed to know to help former soldiers and their families find a home. He exposed me to the niche, and I fell into engaging with the military community — they are My People.

Today, I run my business with the philosophy of Putting My People First. I think if you’re going to hire somebody, hire somebody who can use some help. We’ve got Purple Heart recipients, military wives, firefighters, and transitioning military.

Pedro, who had a large part in saving my life, joined my organization when he wanted to learn real estate. Now he runs the logistics for one of the most successful real estate companies in the United States. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for him and his family. The bond created through warfare simply cannot be replicated. Not by anything.

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Pedro Solis saved my life in Afghanistan, and now plays a vital role on my real estate team.

The culture in San Antonio is you’re either active military or a veteran, or you like the military. Serving this community through real estate is an amazing thing, and I fell into it. And I feel that nobody in San Antonio does it as well as my team and I do. We understand the military perspective, and support it one hundred percent.

At the base of my company’s success is what the Army taught me. I feel that my whole role in life is to show my fellow people how to use their talents. You’re not just a gunfighter: All those things you put in place to keep yourself safe and accomplish your mission are applicable to society, too, and, in fact, help make it work.

I want to inspire that dude or that lady who’s getting out of the military. I was at the end of the road: I got blown up, lost several of my men, went through recovery, was out of money, and started a new career. Wow. I mean, it’s pretty wild how it all turned out.

The biggest thing I want people to know is that My People can do it, too. Give them a shot: You may be surprised at what you find. I believe this is the most entrepreneurial generation of veterans ever.

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MICKI ESPOSITO

MICKI ESPOSITO

BROKER

An accomplished real estate professional with a distinguished track record of success.  She has spent over 17 years in Atlanta representing buyers and sellers of $1M+ properties and is a tremendous negotiator.  Micki has a unique knack for forming close and authentic relationships with her clients; she steps beyond the real estate transaction and provide them with after care.  Micki has unparalleled marketplace knowledge and thrives on being resourceful; she studies and follows the data beyond the average agent.

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