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Marine Cpl. Robert M. Rodriguez

Died March 27, 2003 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom

21, of Queens, N.Y.; assigned to 1st Tank Battalion, 1st Marine Division, Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif.; killed in action near the Euphrates River northwest of Nasiriyah, Iraq.

As the baby in a family of five children, Rodriguez looked up to his brothers and sisters, and wanted to make them proud.

His family valued education, but he found school boring, and so after he received his high-school diploma, Rodriguez joined the Marines at age 17. He became a member of the 1st Tank Battalion, 1st Marine Division, based at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif. He was sent to Kuwait in January as a corporal.

“He loved the Marines,” said his sister Hyda Hernandez-Lopez. “We were all so very proud of him. He was our hero.”

Rodriguez was killed March 25 when the tank he was in plunged off a bridge and into the Euphrates River.

Rodriguez had 17 nephews and nieces. A package of gifts that arrived last week included rugs for his nieces and nephews, and animal figurines for his mother and sisters.

One of his several tattoos depicted the Puerto Rican flag. Others included the raising of the American flag at Iwo Jima, firefighters raising the flag at Ground Zero after Sept. 11, 2001, and the amaryllis flower, which was also his mother’s name.

— Associated Press

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