For many people across the SouthCoast, Memorial Day hits extremely close to home because of the men and women we have lost in the name of freedom, including an honorable young man from Fairhaven who we lost much too soon.

Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew R. Rodriguez served in the 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, 1st Marine Division, and the I Marine Expeditionary Force, and was stationed out of Camp Pendleton, California. He died conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan in December of 2013. He was just 19 years old.

Nearly eight years later, Rodriguez's memory still lives on, and as part of a mass Memorial Day tribute to fallen heroes at Fort Adams, Rodriguez was honored among approximately seven thousand other honorable men and women.

Courtesy of Darrell P. Hancock

Fairhaven resident Darrell Hancock visited the Boots on the Ground memorial in Newport, Rhode Island over the long weekend, sharing these powerful photos on Facebook. Hancock stopped to pay respects to Rodriguez, leaving a penny at the toes of the combat boots to pay respect.

Courtesy of Darrell P. Hancock

This moving and somber tribute to thousands of fallen service men and women serves as a reminder of the ultimate sacrifices each one made to protect freedom here in the United States.

Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Rodriguez's legacy lives on at another staple and year-round memorial here on the SouthCoast. Just outside the New Bedford Regional Airport, the LCPL Matthew Rodriguez Playground was named after Fairhaven's hero and all he gave to his community and his country.

Courtesy of Darrell P. Hancock

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