Date Published: December 14, 2013
Author(s): Peter Gelzinis
Publication: Boston Herald;  Original Article

Young Marine’s Death A Reminder War’s Not Over

It was just a year ago last November and Lauren Webber remembered it as a “joyous event.” Her entire family journeyed from Fairhaven to Parris Island to watch her kid brother, Matt, fulfill the dream of his 18-year-old life and become a Marine, as his father had 40 years before. “My little brother was born to be a Marine,” Lauren said yesterday. “Matt idolized my dad, who was a Marine who fought in Vietnam. The whole family was there to celebrate Matt’s achievement and we were all so very proud.”

And yet, nestled in the pride that warmed this family’s collective heart was the cold realization that just like his father, Orlando, Matthew Rodriguez would undoubtedly be headed off to war.
“Yes,” Lauren said, “we all knew the consequences, or potential consequences, of Matt’s dream. But I think we also know that my brother was born to serve and protect. And yes, making the ultimate sacrifice is part of that.”
On Wednesday, Marines carried the word to a tidy home in Fairhaven that Lance Cpl. Matthew Rodriguez, all of 19, had been killed during combat operations that involved a road side bomb in Helmand Province in Afghanistan.

“He was my little brother and my family’s hero,” Lauren Weber said, pushing back the ache in her voice with a kind of valiant joy.
“Matt was the kindest, the nicest and most genuine person I will ever know. He loved his three nieces and they adored him. He had a girl who loved him and family who adored him.”
Lauren Weber described a younger brother who, in Marine parlance, could best be described as a squared-away gentleman. Along with his parents, who flew to Delaware to greet the body, was the love of Matthew Rodriguez’s life, the hometown girl he planned to marry, Julia Tapper.

Yesterday, her family graciously turned this reporter away, while encouraging us to photograph the flag flying at half-mast in front of their home.

Matthew Rodriguez graduated from Greater New Bedford Vocational-Technical High School with a specialty in plumbing. “I hoped and prayed that maybe Matt would go over there and hook up all the plumbing for the toilets or something,” his sister said, laughing through her tears. “But that’s not really what Marines do, I guess.”

Ryan Boswell, now a student at Franklin Pierce College, was a star outfielder on the New Bedford Voc-Tech baseball team. Matt Rodriguez played no varsity sports and yet they were best friends.
“It was our girlfriends who brought us together,” Boswell recalled, “All Matt wanted to do, all he’d talk about, was being able to make a difference as a Marine. To serve his country, but more than that, Matt wanted to help the people he met over there. He’d talk about it all time.”
“He was tough enough to become a Marine and yet, in all honesty, he was the kindest, most genuine person I think I’ll ever know. I can’t believe I’m talking about Matt like this … like he’s gone.

“I supported his decision to become a Marine,” Ryan said, “and admired him for it. But I can’t believe he’s gone.”

Ryan’s dad, Pete, standing in the living room of his New Bedford home, could barely hold back his tears or his anger. “Matt was such a beautiful kid,” this firefighter said, “and we lose him at 19? And for what? This is supposed to be over.”

On Wednesday, as Nelson Mandela was celebrated half a world away, and the pols in Washington continued their nonsense, we were given a heartbreaking reminder that the war is not over.
Lance Cpl. Matthew Rodriguez laid down his life for the rest of us.

Copyright © 2013 Boston Herald

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