BOSTON (CBS) — The body of Lance Corporal Matthew Rodriguez was brought home for the final time Thursday.

At just 19 years old, 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.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Bernice Corpuz reports

Rodriguez enlisted in the marines right out of high school, the summer before last.

His fiancee’s father called him the “smiling warrior” as he headed off for Afghanistan.

“I’m crushed, we’ve just been devastated,” Brenda Prenda said. “I’ve even been driving around to make sure all the flags are at half-staff.”

Thursday, residents stood along the route to salute Rodriguez as a motorcade made its way from the New Bedford Airport to Fairhaven.

Rodriguez’s parents and siblings were on the tarmac as he returned home, right next to a playground just named for the Lance Corporal.

As the motorcade crossed the bridge into his hometown of Fairhaven, a sea of school children honored the sacrifice of Matthew and his family.

“Reading about it in the newspaper, it just pulls at your heart, especially around this season,” Scott Prenda said. “It just feels like you want to be out here and pay your respects to the family and a fallen hero.”


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