Monday, April 23, 2007

Army Specialist Michael J. Rodriguez

Remember Our Heroes

Army Specialist Michael J. Rodriguez, 20, of Sanford, N.C.

Spc. Rodriguez was assigned to the 5th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.; died April 23, 2007 in Sadah, Iraq, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his location. Also killed were Spc. Jerry R. King, Sgt. Michael L. Vaughan, Sgt. Brice A. Pearson, Sgt. Randell T. Marshall, 1st Lt. Kevin J. Gaspers, Staff Sgt. Kenneth E. Locker Jr., Staff Sgt. William C. Moore and Pfc. Garrett C. Knoll.

Family says soldier with Knoxville ties among 9 killed in Iraq

The Associated Press

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A soldier who grew up in Knoxville is one of nine 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers killed in a suicide truck bombing in Iraq, his family says.

The Department of Defense had yet to confirm the identity of the Fort Bragg, N.C.-based soldiers who were killed in the blast April 23 in Iraq’s Diyala province northeast of Baghdad.

But Caitlin Stone of Knoxville told The Knoxville News Sentinel and WATE-TV that one of them was her fiancé, Pfc. Michael Rodriguez, 20, who lived in Knoxville as a boy and attended Central High School in the city.

He was “very purpose-driven, very respectful, very loving,” she told the television station.

Rodriguez had been in Iraq since August. He came back to Knoxville on leave in January and proposed. “He could have had a very full life ... cut short,” Stone said.

The couple had kept their engagement secret until Rodriguez could ask her father for permission, Stone said. She learned of his death April 24 after her mother talked to his mother in North Carolina.

He was a “good student. A real bright kid. Voracious reader. One of our best student leaders,” said retired Marine Warrant Officer David Johnston, his high school ROTC instructor.

Stone said Rodriguez’s family planned a memorial service April 27 in Sanford, N.C.

Paratrooper killed in Iraq to be buried in Tennessee

The Associated Press

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A paratrooper killed in Iraq lived many places while growing up in a military family, but he will be buried in the place he called home.

Services for Army Spc. Michael Joel Rodriguez, 20, will be May 11 at Chilhowee Hills Baptist Church in Knoxville, which he attended as a teenager.

Rodriguez and eight other paratroopers with the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division died April 23 in a double suicide bombing northeast of Baghdad. A service for all the soldiers was held at Fort Bragg, N.C., the unit’s headquarters.

But his stepmother, Dona Drake of Greensboro, N.C., who raised him, said Rodriguez always thought of Knoxville as his home.

Born in Syracuse, N.Y., Rodriguez moved around the country with his family. He came to Knoxville as a boy and stayed until his senior year at Central High School. He left to join the 82nd Airborne after turning 18. A fourth-generation soldier, he deployed to Iraq in August.

The military listed his hometown as Sanford, N.C., but Drake said he talked of coming back to East Tennessee after finishing his military career. His last visit to Knoxville was in January, when he proposed to his fiancee, Cailtin Stone.

“That’s why I’m bringing him home. I know that’s what he would have wanted,” Drake said.

Army Specialist Michael J. Rodriguez was killed in action on 4/23/07.

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