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Hero Queens Marine Died Doing What He Wanted' Broward Relatives Weep For War Hero
Hero Queens Marine Died Doing What He Wanted'
MARIANNE GARVEY and BILL HOFFMANN
April 2, 2003
A gutsy Marine from Queens - who died when his tank plunged off a bridge in Iraq - died the way he would have wanted to: helping his beloved country stamp out terrorism, his family said yesterday.
Robert Marcus Rodriguez, who joined up at the age of 17, "was doing what he wanted to do and we're proud of him," his sister Hyda Hernandez-Lopez told The Post.
"He was a Marine and he was out there doing his job, a job that he really loved. He was not afraid of dying for his country. He had a really big heart."
Rodriguez, 21, was one of four Marines who died last week when their tank landed upside down in the Euphrates River - a tragedy the family learned about Monday.
Had he returned to his home to Maspeth, Rodriguez, the youngest of five, had planned to become a New York City cop, his sister said.
She said her kid brother had been very close to their mom, Amaryllis, who was flabbergasted when she learned he had gotten a tattoo above his heart - that is, until he showed it to her.
The tattoo was of the amaryllis flower - and he had it put it there so "she would always be close to his heart," Hernandez-Lopez said.
He was also proud of being a patriot and a Puerto Rican, and sported tattoos of the Puerto Rican flag, one of the raising of the American flag at Iwo Jima, and firefighters raising the flag at Ground Zero after Sept. 11, 2001.
"He was a great brother. I had not spoken to him since he left for Kuwait in January, but I had received six letters and packages with gifts," which included rugs for his 17 nieces and nephews and animal figurines for mom and sisters," she said.
"He was a health nut and he complained about the food over there, saying the eggs were green and the oatmeal was hard."
A graduate of John Adams HS, Rodriguez decided against college because he found school boring, his family said. Instead, after getting his diploma, he joined the Marines.
He was sent to Kuwait in January as a corporal with the 1st Tank Battalion.
"He loved the Marines. That's all he lived and breathed - the Marines," Hernandez-Lopez, said. "We were all so very proud of him. He was our hero." She said the last time his family saw him was when he came home in June for the Puerto Rico Day Parade.
The Pentagon identified the other victims as Lance Cpl. Patrick T. O'Day, 20, of Santa Rosa, Calif., Pfc. Francisco A. Martinez Flores, 21, of Los Angeles, and Staff Sgt. Donald May Jr., 31, of Richmond, Va.
Hernandez-Lopez said her parents were "devastated" and too upset to talk last night.
"You can't console them," she explained.
Broward Relatives Weep For War Hero
By Milton D. Carrero
Galarza and Rafael A. Olmeda Staff Writers
April 3, 2003
With the world's attention focused on Iraq, the family of a young soldier is in mourning this week after learning that he died Saturday in an ambush in Afghanistan.
Sgt. Orlando Morales lived in North Carolina with his wife, Roxana, family members said. He was killed when his reconnaissance unit came under fire in the city of Geresk, according to the Department of Defense.
Morales was born in Orocovis, Puerto Rico, and grew up in Pennsylvania. He returned to Puerto Rico at age 24, relatives said. But when finding work there proved difficult, he joined the Army.
His sisters, Nelly Rodriguez of Pennsylvania and Evelyn Morales of Puerto Rico, said they are planning to come to Broward County in the coming days to comfort his widow, who grew up in South Florida and will return to be with her sister in Pembroke Pines.
Rodriguez said the last time she saw her brother was in December, at his daughter's baptism. He seemed "completely peaceful," she said.
"That little girl is a living evidence that Orlando was here," said Thomas Rodriguez, Morales' brother-in-law.
Family members recalled him as "the quiet one."
One of his best friends in the Army was Roxana's brother, and it was through their friendship that he met her. They married in Fort Lauderdale three years ago.
His body will be viewed at the same church where he and his wife exchanged vows.
"She's shown strong character," Thomas Rodriguez said of Roxana. "She has a tough job ahead of her."
Puerto Rico Gov.Sila Maria Calderon offered the condolences to the family, Evelyn Morales said. Masses were organized around the island, including one organized by the mayor of Orocovis, she said.
The support has surprised the family and offered some consolation.
"We're very proud of Orlando," said Thomas Rodriguez. "Although that's not how we wanted him to come, we understand that what he did was very honorable and he should be remembered as a hero."
His body was in Germany on Wednesday, and family members expect to bury him in Broward County next week.