Afghanistan. September 15, 2009. An IED roadside explosion kills four U.S. soldiers on patrol, leaving one surviving Green Beret bloodied, burned and broken. Another soldier happens upon him and drags him to safety. They wait five hours together until a rescue helicopter arrives and ultimately saves the Green Beret’s life.
That explosion had a huge impact on the severely injured Green Beret, who had a wife and two sons waiting for him at home. It changed the very course of his life.
Today, the Green Beret owns and leads a RE/MAX franchise, RE/MAX Military City in San Antonio, Texas, with a singular mission: Serving veterans by putting military families first.
“My whole goal is to show the world that my people – military people – can do anything,” says Levi Rodgers.
A Defining Moment
A career serviceman who joined the army at age 18, Rodgers rose through the ranks before his detachment encountered that IED. Forty-five days after the blast, he awoke from a medically induced coma in San Antonio to learn the horrifying details of the attack and the extent of his injuries. He had broken bones all over except for his arms and neck, and he had sustained burns on 40 percent of his body.
With his wife, Erika, at his bedside, Rodgers realized he had a bigger purpose.
“I was the lone survivor. Four men died under my command, and it changed my perspective on life,” says Rodgers, who earned a Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Legion of Merit for his service. “It left me with a tremendous need to have a positive impact on people’s lives. My purpose now is to give back.”
Alive and walking with the use of a prosthetic exoskeleton over his damaged leg, Rodgers contemplated his next move.
The seed had already been planted for a career in real estate. Earlier, when he was a young soldier at Fort Bragg, Rodgers had worked with a Realtor, Gary Landon, who steered him out of a bad deal and into a good one. After he was discharged from the Army and ready to relocate his family to Texas, Rodgers sold that property for a considerable gain, which helped keep the family afloat for a few months.
“Thirty seconds of honesty from a Realtor can change a person’s life,” he says. “It did for me.”
That deal inspired Rodgers to earn his real estate license. Soon after, he impulsively stopped at RE/MAX North San Antonio IV on the drive home one day.
“I had my big prosthetic exoskeleton on my leg, and I dragged myself into that office,” Rodgers says. He asked about joining the office as an agent. Broker/Owner Kate Keating happily welcomed him to the team.
“What I noticed about Levi right away was his drive,” says Keating. “He came in with an attitude of ‘I want to do this, and I’m going to succeed at it.’”
And of course, he did. In his first nine months, Rodgers cleared $100,000 in gross commissions. Later, he started a team, doubled his sales each year, and earned his way into the RE/MAX Hall of Fame.
“I owe a lot to Kate Keating and her leadership,” Rodgers says. “I say I hobbled into her office a beginner – and walked out of it a success.”
Keating says Rodgers has the right mix of work ethic, personality and honesty.
“Levi is Levi, and he’s a real force,” Keating says. “He always said he was going to show other wounded vets that ‘If I can do this, so can you.’ It’s as though he wasn’t working only for himself, but for all vets.”
On April 1, 2016, Rodgers began the next chapter of his RE/MAX career, opening his own brokerage – RE/MAX Military City – in San Antonio.
Building Military City
Rodgers’ story is extraordinary, but his service isn’t a slogan. And his suffering isn’t a marketing tool.
“I’m OK, and now I need to make sure everyone else is OK,” he says.
Military families face challenges in civilian life. Service members struggle to find occupations that match their training. Spouses often sacrifice their own careers to care for children during deployment or the wounded when they return. So Rodgers concentrates on a universal upside of a military background – the training, responsibility and teamwork engrained in the culture.
“I’m a success because of my military training. You show up on time, in the right uniform, and you do what you say you’re going to do,” Rodgers says. “That discipline is an asset in any business.”
His office has eight agents and six staff members, and half of the group has a military family background. His listing coordinator, Eva Lyles, is a military spouse whose injured ex-husband was in rehab with Rodgers.
“I was a military mom for 10 years, and I had no experience except for taking care of my babies,” Lyles says. “But Levi encouraged me to go to school. He told me he’d have a place for me in his business. He’s changed my life.”
Rodgers runs his office with military precision. Lyles says it’s a plus for the staff. “There’s a no-nonsense atmosphere here, and that’s what we prefer,” she says. “But, like the military, it’s more than just an office. It feels like a family.”
I’m a success because of my military training. You show up on time, in the right uniform, and you do what you say you’re going to do.Levi Rodgers
The military ethos translates to the service provided to customers as well. Rodgers educated himself on the real estate benefits available to returning veterans. He specializes in serving their unique needs and situations. Rodgers says he’s made it his life’s mission to understand the loans available to military personal. He knows every line of the VA loan and the Texas Vet Loan and can tell clients if it’s in their best interest to use these financial tools.
“Sometimes it is, sometimes it’s not,” Rodgers explains. “If they’re going to move in two years, it’s better not to use these.”
When it comes to his quick success in real estate – having entered the field only four years ago – Rodgers says his wife deserves all the credit. Erika experienced her own trauma following his injury, and her unwavering support makes everything possible.
“Oftentimes, the military family takes the biggest hit. They suffer just as much as the veteran, if not more,” Rodgers says. “When you see a veteran in the wheelchair before you shake his or her hand, shake the hand of the person pushing the wheelchair.”
There’s definitely a bond at RE/MAX Military City. In fact, the soldier who in 2009 found Rodgers on that Afghanistan roadside is a member of the team as well.
“Pedro saved my life that day,” Rodgers says. “And talk about loyalty. If I need him at the office at 8 a.m., he’s always there. When you have military training, you have that kind of work ethic.”
Rodgers recently started a self-funded philanthropy, “Bullets to Buildings,” that places military personnel in internships within the real estate industry, and he’s contracted with Fort Sam Houston as a resource. With the right training, Rodgers says, these veterans will be prepared to succeed in the civilian world when the time comes.
“I have an obligation to my fellow military personnel, and I will always honor it,” he says. “It will never end.”