Fallen Marine, 19 — his sister's 'superhero' — laid to rest
FAIRHAVEN, Mass. -- U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew R. "Smiley" Rodriguez lived by his tattoo bearing the words: "For those I love, I will sacrifice," his proud sister told a packed church today in the fishing town where her little brother learned to laugh and love during his 19 brief years.
"My superhero," Lauren Webber said through tears. "Never once did he hesitate to say, 'Yes, I'll be there whenever you need me.' "
Webber of Taunton rubbed the back of her youngest sibling, Adam Rodriguez, as he sobbed inconsolably beside the flag-draped coffin of their brother on the altar of First Congregational Church.
Matthew Rodriguez was killed by a roadside bomb Dec. 11 in Afghanistan, where he was deployed with the 1st Combat Engineer Battalion based at Camp Pendleton, Calif. He had been a Marine for little more than a year.
Today, Gov. Deval Patrick, Executive Secretary of Public Safety Andrea Cabral and South Boston Congressman Stephen Lynch were among the dignitaries to make the trip to southeastern Massachusetts in a dense fog and chilly rain to pay their respects to the young serviceman, who was laid to rest in the National Cemetery in Bourne just two days shy of Christmas.
After a one-hour service, a half-dozen Marines in dress blues carried his coffin from the chapel rising up out of a quaint square of elm trees and brick sidewalks. The funeral procession was led by nearly two dozen motorcycle cops representing police departments in the New Bedford area.
A longstanding sign in a lawn flower bed mourners passed by offered this bittersweet message: "May Peace Prevail on this Earth."
For some time, Patrick sat alone in a velvet-cushioned pew, quietly watching a video monitor showing family photos of the fallen teen, who grew from a gap-toothed tot to a strikingly handsome young man so bent on helping his country he was willing to sacrifice even his shoulder-length skater-dude hair.
Finally, one woman walked over to Patrick and hugged him.
A soft-spoken Adam Rodriguez told the gathering of Matthew. "He always had the dumbest grin on his face -- always smiling, no matter what.
"All I can do for him is do my best in everything I do, and everything succeeded will be for him. My big brother, my Marine, my hero."
Matthew Rodriguez was a 2012 graduate of Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School, who planned to pursue a college degree in history. He was also engaged to be married.
The Rev. Bette McClure told those united in their sorrow today Matthew Rodriguez's tragic passing was "one of the hardest deaths to grieve -- the death of a young man barely into adulthood. A proud Marine, a child, a brother, a fiancee, who died far from home in an act of violence."
She urged those who truly wanted to honor him to keep a promise, seek out an old friend, forgive an enemy and express their love for others, over and over.
"The heart that breaks open," McClure noted, "can contain the whole world."