FAIRHAVEN — People lined the streets from New Bedford to Mattapoisett today as Marine Lance Corporal Matthew R. Rodriguez, 19, was brought home after dying in combat in Afghanistan on Dec. 11.
Rodriguez’s remains were flown to New Bedford Regional Airport from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. A Marine honor guard lifted his flag-draped casket from a small charter plane and into a waiting hearse.
Hundreds of people, many of them strangers, stood silently outside a fence that separated them from the tarmac, where dozens of family and friends of Rodriguez gathered.
A long police-escorted motorcade wound through New Bedford across the bridge to Rodriguez’s home of Fairhaven, where the streets were filled with residents bearing flags, their hands over their hearts.
The motorcade went to Rodriguez’s home and then continued to a funeral home in Mattapoisett.
Tiffany Tranghese, 27, of New Bedford,who was standing outside the airport fence by herself, a flag in hand, said she didn’t know Rodriguez but wanted to pay her respects.
“It’s just a heartbreaking story for someone so young. I just wanted to show respect for his family. I’m a registered nurse, and I started working with vets at the VA when I graduated. It’s just really important that we honor them. I couldn’t do what he did,” she said.
The Pentagon has said that Rodriguez, a combat engineer, died “while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.” They released no further details, saying his death was still under investigation.