FAIRHAVEN — A 19-year-old Fairhaven man was killed while serving with the US Marines in Afghanistan Wednesday, the US Defense Department announced.
Lance Corporal Matthew R. Rodriguez died “while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan,” the Pentagon said. No details of the incident were available Thursday.
According to the Defense Department, Rodriguez was assigned to First Combat Engineer Battalion, First Marine Division, First Marine Expeditionary Force, based at Camp Pendleton, Calif.
He was serving as a combat engineer at the time of his death, the Marine Corps said in a separate statement. He enlisted in the service Aug. 20, 2012, officials said.
The Marines said Rodriguez has been awarded the National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and the NATO Medal-International Security Assistance Force Afghanistan.
“The Marines and sailors of First Marine Division mourn the loss of Lance Corporal Rodriguez,’’ the Marines Corps said. “Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family.’’
In Fairhaven Thursday night, the town’s Board of Selectmen observed a moment of silence to honor Rodriguez.
Chairman Charles K. Murphy Sr. said he was deeply saddened to learn of Rodriguez’s death.
“Our hearts just dropped,” said Murphy, whose daughter was a friend of Rodriguez’s. “It’s a great, great loss for our town.”
Murphy extended condolences to Rodriguez’s family.
“If there’s anything that the town of Fairhaven can do [for them], we’d be happy to do it,” Murphy said.
Rodriguez graduated from Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School and was engaged to be married. His fiancee’s family declined to comment Thursday night.
Murphy also commended Rodriguez for his service.
“He served his country, and at 19 he was probably more mature than people in their 60s and 70s because of his dedication to our community and his country,” Murphy said.
He added that his daughter and other friends of Rodriguez’s are grieving. “She just said he was a really great guy,” Murphy said. “She loved hanging out with him. . . . She’s very heartbroken, as well as many of her peers are tonight.”
Murphy said the police chief indicated Thursday that a police escort would be available to travel with Rodriguez’s body when it returns home. The same was done for Marine Lance Corporal Patrick J. Gallagher, a former resident killed in Iraq in 2006, Murphy said.
Other selectmen offered condolences after the moment of silence. Selectman Robert J. Espindola said Rodriguez was a “fine young man.”
“It’s just a terrible shame,” he said. “He paid the ultimate sacrifice.”Travis Andersen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. John R. Ellement can be reached at email@example.com.