Gladys Rodriguez, her husband and two young sons fled Castro's Cuba 40 years ago and made a nail-biting journey to the United States, where they eventually took the oath of U.S. citizenship during a bicentennial event at Baltimore's Fort McHenry in 1976.
So you might expect that she and her family would exhibit the powerful patriotic feelings that might lay dormant in other Americans.
For Rodriguez, those feelings found voice in, of all things, a cookbook.
"My daughter-in-law had a friend who was injured in Iraq," said Rodriguez, who lives in Crofton. "We met him and his wife at Walter Reed [Hospital] and asked what we could do. They told us to contact the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund."
That's when Gladys Rodriguez thought about a cookbook.
The Semper Fi Fund has, since 2004, given $39 million in grants to injured Marines and their families.
The money replaces paychecks while the wife or mother or loved one lives by the bedside of an injured Marine. It also pays for meals and lodging for other family members who visit.
It pays for living space renovations so a Marine with injuries such as a missing limb can return home. It pays for cars and vans that are converted so injured Marines can be mobile. It pays for computers for those who have had brain trauma.
And the fund is there for as long as the Marine needs it to be.
Rodriguez came up with the idea of a cookbook filled with recipes loved by Marine families. Thanks to the magic of e-mail, she had 250 recipes before she knew it, including one for a California Salad that Rodriguez said is fabulous.
She and her husband, Bob, paid for the printing of the first 500 copies of the cookbook, and prayed they would sell enough to print some more.
That was 3,200 cookbooks ago.
Between the sale of the cookbooks, at $10 each, and fundraisers sponsored by her employer, Don Riddle, owner of Homestead Gardens in Davidsonville, Rodriguez has donated $20,800 to the Semper Fi Fund.
The cost of printing the cookbook is about $3.35 each. Everything else goes to the Semper Fi Fund, which has a high rating among organizations that monitor charities.
"I have four sons, and not one of them was called on to serve. It is an obligation for me to do something for those who have," said Rodriguez, who has "adopted" a number of Marines, sending them letters and packages while they are deployed and, happily, meeting them when they return home safely.
"It has been a labor of love, and I will do this until I can't do anything anymore," she said. "But it doesn't have to be a cookbook. Send a donation, have a car wash, have a bake sale, get your company to sponsor a golf tournament. Anything. If I can do it, anybody can."
Rodriguez and her husband also volunteer weekends at Bethesda Naval Hospital.
"It is just a love for this country and a feeling of gratitude for the Marines who protect it."
To buy a copy of the Marine family cookbook, visit Homestead Gardens in Davidsonville, where the books are on sale at checkout or e-mail Rodriguez at firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations to the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund can be made at semperfifund.org.
Editor's note: Susan Reimer's son is an active-duty Marine.
Correction: An earlier version of this story said Rodriguez paid for the cost of mailing each cookbook. She pays for the packaging envelope, but not the shipping costs.