Carlos Pujols is both a Saint Rose student and serves our country as a private first class in the Army National Guard (442nd Military Police Unit, under the 104th Military Police Battalion). At Saint Rose, Pujols, who is from Brooklyn, is a criminal justice major who will start his senior year in the fall.
Recently, his unit was activated, and he was sent to work access control at the Javits Center in New York City, which has been set up as a temporary medical station in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He later tested positive for COVID-19 and is recovering well under quarantine.
We are grateful for and proud of his service to others, and we recently talked to him about his experiences.
Tell me about your activation. When did it happen, and where were you sent?
The Javits Convention Center in mid-Manhattan is one of the areas that was established after Governor Cuomo named it as a medical station to treat our COVID-19 patients because of the numbers of cases increasing at the time. My post consists of our entrance points we have at the facility; nothing gets into the center without our knowing.
What has this experience been like for you? What have you seen or learned that made an impact?
My experience has been interesting. The connection I have with certain people in my unit is what keeps me motivated when I come in each month. Even aside from training, speaking to family, hanging with friends back at college is what kept me levelheaded and focused.
Everything that has ever happened, is what build my foundation up to who I am now, and I do want to thank those I had the pleasure of knowing, those who I continue to speak to, and those who I no longer speak too.
What are you able to share about your illness/positive COVID-19 test?
The day we had our night shift, I woke up perfectly fine, motivated for the night, dancing, smiling, laughing. During my shift, it was completely the opposite of what I felt before shift. The fever came in, followed by the difficulty breathing. It was difficult for me to get a sentence out. I continued to work till the shift was complete. Never have a felt so defeated, never have I felt tired like I did there. Something about me was completely different. That morning, a corporal with a medical background came in to check, my lungs were filled, medics came in the next morning, my temperature hit a 102.8. I was put in quarantine. As the days went by, I slowly recovered my breathing, the fever was gone with Tylenol, though it was completely up to my body on how I constructed myself the next few days to help me.
This virus took a toll on my body. You feel weak, you feel helpless. Even though the recovery rate is greater, you still have that sinking feeling in your stomach of that unknown. I took this situation calmly, once I received my results, I wasn’t as surprised, though I was more worried of how I was going to bounce back. The first person I called was my mother, and she connected my father to the call. We talked, and it went along the lines of “What will we do to create the environment in which you can make a recovery?” Each week, my father and mother dropped off necessities for me – cleaning supplies, food, medicine (herbal medicine). Things that we can do to help me in any way. Basic needs were necessary to make sure that I can keep up with the fight. My battles from my unit who were tasked with looking over me brought food in the morning, afternoon, and evening. Medics checked up on me during the morning every day. It was a collective effort to help me at my most vulnerable moment, and that’s what I want to see within our communities.
We only as strong as our weakest link. We have to care for the vulnerable. We will never make it until we work together. It’s a collective effort. Take care of your family members who are ill. Continue to pray, and keep faith up that everything will get better.
When will you be able to return to service, and where will your post be?
In complete honesty, I am not sure when I will be able to return to duty. I just hope it’s soon. I will be back at the center providing security with my unit.
What inspired you to join the military two years ago?
I remember specific moments in my life that in way help me choose to join the military. Stepping into the recruiting office was nerve-racking, though as I spoke to one of my recruiters, he wanted to focus on the “why.” Why do you want to join the military?
I thought about it, and slowly figured out the many reasons of why I am still moving. My family has become a big part of my decision. I don’t know if you understand what I mean by “comfortable,” but though I was at a point that I was comfortable with where I was at, I didn’t like the feeling. I wanted to get ahead of the game and make moves in a way to help me in figuring out what I wanted to do with my life, especially with that being a huge thing at a young age. I chose to be military police. I wanted that added stress. I wanted to be uncomfortable to learn from my experiences and go on to helping others figure out their way as well.
What are your plans for the future?
My future isn’t decided. I am getting close to graduation, but I am riding waves and seeing where my life takes me. I am taking small steps, though constructive steps in my decisions.
Anything else we should know about you that you would like to share?
I just want to give lots of love to the community I am a part of. Saint Rose is a big part of my life – a decision I never knew I would make. Though I am very glad that I did! The faculty that have been with me since day one. The place where I consider home.