Saturday, 2:15 PM
Fallen Revere soldier inspired by kids he met in the war
Rodriguez Ramirez with the kids who inspired him.
By Jonnelle Marte, Globe Correspondent
REVERE -- Resting his arms on his thighs, his eyes tired from grief, Nelson Rodriguez sat at a relative's home today and recalled how his son had found another purpose in Afghanistan.
Nelson Rodriguez Ramirez
Amongst barefoot children he had met in the war -- whose faces lit up when he gave them something as simple as a pen or a snack -- Sgt. Nelson Rodriguez Ramirez had his faith in his service renewed, his father said. "He didn't like war, but it was in his heart to be there and protect those kids."
On Saturday, Rodriguez Ramirez was riding in a truck when it struck an improvised explosive device, killing him and three others. The 22-year-old father of two -- who had been home for his second daughter's birth in January -- had plans to visit his family in Revere for his 23rd birthday on August 13. His wife, Moraima, and 5-month-old daughter Kiara were going to come from their home in Rochester, N.Y. for the bash.
He would have been home for good in January, when he was going to take steps to join the Coast Guard and study to be a pilot, said his father, who lives in Revere.
"That all fell through when this happened," he said. According to the Department of Defense, Rodriguez Ramirez is among 527 servicemen and women who have been killed in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, said Lt. Col. Les' A. Melnyk.
When he was killed, Rodriguez Ramirez was assigned to the 2nd Squadron, 101st Cavalry (Reconnaissance, Surveillancy and Target Acquistion), New York Army National Guard, based in Geneva, N.Y. He was posthumously promoted from specialist to sergeant, said Eric Durr, a spokesman for the New York Army National Guard.
Rodriguez Ramirez and two of the three others who were killed in Saturday's attack -- Sergeant Andrew Seabrooks, of South Ozone Park, Queens, N.Y.; and Sergeant Anthony Mangano, of Greenlawn, N.Y. were posthumously awarded the Conspicuous Service Cross by New York Governor David Paterson, Durr said.
While he was away, not a day went by that Rodriguez Ramirez didn't call his family.
"Even though he was so far away, he was so close to me," said his mother, Diana Ramirez of Chelsea, who said that there were no secrets between her and her second oldest child. "He didn't give me a chance to miss him a lot."
Rodriguez Ramirez was born in Puerto Rico and moved to Boston when he was 8 years old. A few years later, his family settled in Revere, where he attended Revere High School for a few years before dropping out, relatives said.
"He was rebelling, like most teenagers do," said his aunt, Raquel Rodriguez, huddled with family yesterday at her house in Revere. "But we refused to let him go down the wrong road."
At the urging of his family, Rodriguez Ramirez enrolled at Westover Job Corps in Chicopee and earned his GED. He then took a few computer classes in the Boston area, but decided to move to Niagara Falls to be with the woman he loved. That relationship led to the birth of his first daughter, Ariana, now four years old.
To make sure she had everything she needed, he enlisted in the Army National Guard in 2003.
His relationship with Ariana's mother soured, but he still maintained a close relationship with his daughter, who lives in Niagara Falls, N.Y., relatives said. In December, he married Moraima, and he was on hand for Kiara's birth before he was deployed in March.
Moraima said in a telephone interview yesterday that she finds comfort in a quote a friend emailed to her soon after her husband died: "A soldier never dies, he just joins God's army."
"He's always thinking about everybody else before he thinks of himself," said his wife. "He would always send me flowers to make sure I knew he was appreciative of me waiting for him."
Relatives credited Rodriguez Ramirez with keeping the large extended family connected. "Sometimes we don't realize in our busy lives how important it is to be with family, but not him," said his aunt Raquel Rodriguez.
Rodriguez Ramirez's family today made arrangements for his military funeral, set to happen 10 a.m. Saturday at the Immaculate Conception Church in Revere followed by a burial at the Woodlawn Cemetery in Everett. They shared their favorite stories about him - how he always wanted to play the red Power Ranger as a kid, how he loved to dance salsa, especially the music of Jerry Rivera, how he could bring a smile to everyone's face.
"Any time you looked down, he would always make you happy," said his brother Ricardo Rodriguez, 17, of Chelsea.
They wore T-shirts that bore a picture of Rodriguez Ramirez in his uniform with an American flag in the background. The image was inscribed with a saying in Spanish: "You will live forever in our hearts."
This blogger might want to review your comment before posting it.