Corporal Robert "Roberto" Marcus Rodriguez, the first New Yorker killed in the war against Iraq, was laid to rest Friday.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg addressed mourners at Rodriguezs funeral at Blessed Sacrament Church in Cypress Hills, calling him a "son of New York" who "fell in battle half a world away."
Bloomberg, who delivered the eulogy in both Spanish and English, referred to the war as "a battle that began here on the streets of New York 19 months ago [on Sept. 11]."
Rodriguez, 21, of Maspeth, was one of four Marines who perished on March 24 when their tank ran off a bridge and landed upside down in the Euphrates River.
Eight Marine pallbearers carried his coffin up the rain-slicked stairs of the church where his family attended, as mourners, huddled beneath umbrellas, followed.
"On behalf of eight million New Yorkers, I send my condolences to the family," Bloomberg said to the fallen Marines parents, Amarilys Rodriguez and Clemente Hernandez. "This week all of us were gratified by TV images of citizens of Baghdad celebrating victory. Today the joy is tempered by the loss of this courageous young man."
Outside was hung a wreath and card from his "brothers and sisters" in the Marine Corps. Yellow, red, white and blue ribbons were tied to the fence of the church school across Euclid Avenue. A banner draped from the schools second-floor window read, "Our Hero Cpl. Rodriguez."
"The freedom and security of America are precious. They come at a price," said the mayor. "Roberto was willing to pay that price. We owe Roberto more than we can ever say."
Born in Brooklyn and raised in Queens, Rodriguez was of Puerto Rican descent. He decided at age 17 he wanted to be a Marine. He eventually became a member of the 1st Tank Battalion, 1st Marine Division and was sent to Kuwait in January. He last saw his family in June when he came home for the Puerto Rican Day Parade.
He wore numerous tattoos that showed his greatest loves and loyalties. One was a Puerto Rican flag, while another showed firefighters hoisting the American flag at ground zero after 9/11. On his chest was an amaryllis flower, his mothers namesake.
"He was a son of Puerto Rico. He was a son of the US," said the Reverend Thomas Brosnan.
"He decided to do something worthwhile. He made the choice to serve. We should be proud of his sacrifice."
"He was always about devotion and for what he believed in," said a relation. "He believed in this war and saving lives through the military."
A close friend said that Rodriguez "knew what he was up against," and knew what he was risking when he was sent to Kuwait.
According to Bloomberg, the Marine had hoped to become a police officer in November after his four-year commitment to the armed forces was over.
"I have no doubt he would truly have been one of our finest," added the mayor. "Sadly, well never know what he would have accomplished with the rest of his life."
Bloomberg finished by saying "Roberto, rest in peace," in Spanish.
A fourth- and fifth-grade choir from Blessed Sacrament School sang "God Bless America" as Marines stood at attention and saluted the flag-draped coffin of their fallen brother. Mourners watched as it was carried from the church under a soaking rain.
Rodriguez was entombed at National Memorial Cemetery in Pinelawn, Long Island.