BOSTON (CBS) – At just 19 years old, Lance Corporal Matthew Rodriguez died a hero in the eyes of his younger brother Adam, who proudly displayed photos Thursday night of the decorated marine killed in action in Afghanistan.
Cpl. Rodriguez was with the 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, 1st Marine Division. According to the USMC, he died while conducting combat operations in Helmand province on December 11.
“My brother was always a fighter, getting involved with people and always wanting to help people,” said Adam Rodriguez.
At home he was the jokester, according to his brother.
He had piercing blue eyes, and was even called “smiley,” but his manner didn’t always sit well with the military.
“He was always smiling, always had a grin on his face. He even got in trouble for it in boot camp,” said his brother.
Friends say military service was Matthew Rodriguez’s calling, graduating in 2012 from the plumbing program at New Bedford Greater Vocational Technical school and immediately enlisting; following in his father’s footsteps.
“He chose to go into the military, the Marines,” said his former classmate Anthony Branquinho. “He wanted to go and fight for something and get respect that way.”
The details of how he was killed are unclear. His friends were nervous about Rodriguez’s deployment, but not the Marine they called fearless.
“He made the ultimate sacrifice and his family can be proud of him in an honorable way. I don’t think you can ask for anything more,” said another classmate Kyle Bettencourt.
Rodriguiez’s brother is asking for one more thing: a chance to say goodbye.
“I just wish I could have told him I love him one more time. I’ll always have those regrets,” he said.
The family is travelling to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware where Rodriguez’s body is expected Saturday.
His personal awards include the National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and NATO Medal-ISAF Afghanistan.
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