You see, I was born in 1962. I grew up during the Vietnam war. I saw my neighbor come home from that war not the same person I knew when he left. He scared me as a kid. It was a crazy time back then with all our leaders being killed - both Kennedy's, MLK. And then there was Kent State. That war made me at a young age hate war.
On August 25 2004 my neighbor Carlos was working in his yard. It was his birthday. He had his phone in his pocket waiting to get the "Happy Birthday" call from his son in Iraq. A van pulled up to his house, he thought, "Alex is coming home to surprise me for my birthday" because he had done it before. They were there to tell him Alex had died in Iraq. He was on his second tour and only 20 years old. Carlos lost it. To make a long story short Carlos took the gasoline he was going to mow they yard with to use to blow up the van that brought the news of Alex. Many of you may remember this. This story went world wide.
Back in 2003 we would hear about the death in Iraq. Each death was soul killing to me. Alex death was devastating to me because it was so close to home. I didn't know Alex but I grieve for his death daily. Alex is with me all the time. His death changed my life, who I am today.
He was a wonderful kid who only wanted an education and joined the marines at the age of 17 because he knew his family had no money to send him to college. He was very smart, funny and always had a smile on his face.
His first letter home:
Like I said, when Alex died it changed who I was. I became involved in our government. I did everything from lobbying congress to stop the war, protest in DC, weekly protest in South Florida. After many years of these actions and not seeing any results I decided to do everything I can to get people to vote so we can get these people out of office who did this to Alex and all his military friends.
Mom & Dad,
Today is Sunday, January 19, 2003. I've been out at sea for three days now and I'm starting to feel better. The first two days I was completely sick from seasickness and some virus. So far everyday I come outside the skin of the ship and write letters, whale watch, (which isn't that great cause I haven't seen any but there are plenty of dolphins that swim along side the ship), watch the horizon and sunset, etc. This seams so unreal to me. I've never seen water this BLUE before, I've never looked 360 degrees around me and seen nothing but water, clouds, the sun and a Fleet of Battleships surrounding me. Tomorrow is one of my many , many training days on ship to prepare me for my mission. I will also be training a short time in Kuwait. This is hard for me to comprehend. It seems like my whole life changed in an instant. Yesterday I was in a classroom learning about trigonometry and history. I graduated, went to boot camp, went to school, graduated as a GRUNT. I was sent across the country to train. Now I'm being sent across the world to fight. Today I am in a classroom learning about Tactical Urban Combat and Nuclear, Biological and chemical warfare. In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, on my way to experience 1st hand what I am learning about. I am not afraid of dying. I am more afraid of what will happen to all the ones that I love if something happens to me. Soon enough I will be in the desert, outside in the city of Bagdad, in full combat gear, ready to carry out my mission. Wondering how this all happened so fast, Wishing I was back home going to school, dating Shelia, taking care of my family. Although I think this way now I am almost certain that if I didn't walk this path I would be wondering to myself "why didn't I make the other decision. Why didn't I walk the path of a proud warrior, a marine." Just because I wonder "what if" doesn't mean I'm not proud, it doesn't mean I feel like I made the wrong decision. It doesn't mean I have any regrets. I'm still proud to be fighting for mycountry. I feel like, If I'm not helping one way I should still do all that I can to help (OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM). I'm on a time back now. I need to send this letter in the next hour for it to get to you by Tuesday or Wednesday. I love you both very much and I wish I could keep writing but I got to go. LOVE YOU. PFC ARREDONDO/ UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS
A note to Brian his brother:
WHATS UP BRIAN, I feel so lucky to be blessed with the chance to defend my country 6 months after I joined the military. Some Marines have been in for over 20 years and still haven't seen combat. I'm also lucky to have such a wonderful family. I know how much you love me and support me and that keeps me going along with a few other things. Is Jeanette babysitting for Mom? LOVE YOU BROTHER Your Big Brother - Private First Class Arredondo USMC
My students know about Alex because I talk to everyone about him . I ask people if they are registered to vote. I ask them how are they serving their country because Alex gave his life for theirs. The least we can do is take 5 minutes out of our day on election day to hit the polls to place our vote. The people of this country do have the power if we would only exercise our voice. I feel like my actions worked because we had 85% show up to vote here with 65% across the country. Usually we only get 25-30% show up to vote. We are a great people when we come together.
Through knowing Alex's family I have met other gold star families. No matter how long time passes the death of their loved ones are fresh in their hearts. So this Memorial Day if you know someone who has died in a war call the family this weekend. Tell them how much you value the sacrifice that was made by their loved ones.
I love you Alex - may your soul RIP. I remember you until my last breath and I will tell your story to others so they remember what you did for us.
August 25, 2004
Lance Corporal Arredondo served as Fire Team Leader during the Battalion's attack into the old cith of Najaf. As the Platoon attacked to clear a four-story hotel, it was heavily engaged by enemy machine gun and sniper fire from three different directions. Lance Corporal Arredondo returned fire exposing himself to great risk to ensure the members of his team were safe. After fearlessly exchanging fire with the enemy snipers for more than three hours, Lance Corporal Arredondo fell mortally wounded as he moved through the rooms to inspect the Marines' defensive position.
The Alexander Arredondo Memorial Scholarship Fund
Blue Hills Regional Technical School
Joseph A. Ciccolo, Superintendent-Director
Please send donations to:
Blue Hills Regional Technical School
800 Randolph Street
Canton, MA 02021
Attn: Arredondo Scholarship Fund
Telephone (781) 828-5800
I thought long and hard about posting this here on my sewing blog but I think it's important. We were taught not to talk about politics. When we do this others can control us. We must talk about what is going on. We are not always going to agree but we need to have the discussion.
To let you know what a great kid Alex was here are a few things his friends had to say about him.
"Alex, I'm sorry I always gave you a hard time because you were junior to me in the marine corps. I know that it wasn't easy for you to go straight from SOI to OIF1 and I didn't make that time any easier for you. I never told you this when you were alive but I have a lot of respect for you. As a man and as a marine. You never complained when all the rest of us were crying like girls about some BS work that had to get done. I always noticed and respected that. So man, forgive me for being a mean drunk of a senior marine because I'm going to give you a hug when I see you in the afterlife. I love ya, man." Anonymous of Anytown,"Alex, The best memory of you I have is when we were on top of the cliffs at red beach and I was afraid to repel down. You talked me into it. Man all the Raiders miss you and we will NEVER forget you. You were a great guy. Rest in peace Alex. Raider for life and beyond." john of"Alex, Where do I begin? As all the Raiders that have been on here before me have said, I miss you Dondo, more than words can describe. I can go back to so many fond memories of us. From climbing school, where we really first got to know each other... where our fears of heights were forgotten and our bonds were formed. We would place pro and jump down like 15 feet to test it to show the others that it was safe. How we ended up driving, what 2 hours to snowboad in Brogdons car... and i broke my tail bone and had to ride back on my stomach in the passenger seat. Then always saying "Bomber" LOL that was the word. Then came and i have fond memories of you being on my left flank as we all went through the cemetary. You just had an attitude about you that made me smile in the hardest of times... we climbed those T-Barriers in FOB Baker, where we had like 7 people on them.. you climbed up it upside down LOL how great.. always talking about getting back and boarding... TOE SLIDE...HEEL SLIDE!!! And then i had to listen on the radio as all our brothers started falling, and found out that you weren't coming back. It was the first time i had lost someone extremely close to me, it is indescribable. Now, im out, im back home, living safely under our free skies, and theres not a day goes by that i don't think about you Alex, i could go on and on and on about how much i thank you for everything you taught me, everything we shared... but i'm just going to say it like this. I Love You Alex, Forever... until I see you at the gates of heaven.. "WE FEW, WE HAPPY FEW, WE BAND OF BROTHERS, HE WHO SHEDS HIS BLOOD WITH ME, SHALL FOR EVER BE MY BROTHER"" James of"Dondo, I didn't know you as well as many others did but we are still brothers. Everyone from 1/4 seems to have a story about you and what a great person you were. I remember always trying to find your lane during the boat raid cliff assaults. RAIDER FOR LIFE!!!!""Alex, Hey brother, it's me Mendoza. I'm sorry that i've taken so long to do this. Ayup, Pineda, Medina, Bagby, Enrique, Velazquez and I were all hanging out last night and we remembered you. I told 'em about how close those damn hellfires landed in front of us in the cemetary and how you would give me and Velazquez a hard time about smoking. I told 'em about how you would cover me when we were clearing those goddam tombs in the cementery. It's funny to think that i never would have gotten to know you better if you hadn't been on that far right flank of your platoon and me on the far left of mine. I remember you, velazquez, anspach and me fighting for every inch of that cementery. My friend, mostly I remember carrying you down the stairs of that building and hoping to god that the tracks would hurry and come get you. doc soto did everything that he could while we prayed. sadly, the good lord decided that you were due up in heaven. I hope that God gives your family the strength that they need day to day. I can't pretend to know what they are going through, but I hope that they read this and know that you have a whole company of brothers who would do anything for them. my friend, i want you to know that your picture is framed at my house and that my son knows your name. From now until the day i die, i will remember you and make sure that my son tells our embellished stories to his children. From now until the end of time, we shall be remembered. we few, we happy few, we band of brothers. SEMPER FI RAIDERS FOR LIFE DOZA" Carlos of"Hey bro. Its me Ayup, I dont even know were to begin, its so hard for me everyday to go on with out you. I talk to crespo and Ssgt. Sandoval somtimes and we talk about how much we miss you bro.And hear I am crying like a little girl right now thinking about what happend that day on the roof.And when I held you in my arms befor they took you away. I relive that moment every day in my head. And just thinking that you were standing right were I was, it kills me bro. It hurts so bad. I love you so much man and miss you more then ever. your brother!!!! Cpl. Michael Ayup 1st BN 4th MAR Alpha co. Raiders Wpns platoon Raider for Life!!!!!" Cpl Michael of Camp Pendlton
."Well ive been out for about a month and i really cant move on wit my life, yet i havent said goodbye to all thoose i needed to and i def havent said what i needed tosay to you and your fam but i will soon i havent finished what i started writting but im workin on it man, i just want your family to know that you arent forgoten not for a sec" adam of chicago il"Hey Dondo, it's been two years next week since the worst day in many of our lives. I've thought about that rooftop every day and every night for the past two years. It took a while to understand why it was you and not someone else. Why Dondo? He didn't ever do anything wrong, never hurt anybody. Why? I struggled with this question for a long time and as we come to the anniversary of that fateful day once again I remember why. You were stronger in your faith and your character than anyone I've ever known. The good Lord knew where you were going and He needed more time to work on lost souls like mine. Thank you for being the rock that I can stand on. Thank you for reminding me what life is about and who to live it for. I love you buddy. You are sorely missed and forever will be. "From this day to the ending of the world, But we in it shall be remembered. We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother" Raider For Life. Semper Fi." Warren of"Dondo, sorry it has taken so long for me to say good-bye...i have been kinda thinking about this for the past couple of years...now im out of the Marine Corps and all it does it make me look back on everything....I was standing right next to you when it happened...I wish with everything in me there was something i could do...but by going to your families website and reading the letters you sent home it made me realize you were far more braver than any man I have ever known...I am proud to have fought next to you and proud to have been your brother "RAIDER FOR LIFE"....I will see you soon...with all my love..Semper Fi" Cpl Jarred of College Station, TX"You were a great leader and a great friend Alex. Firm but fair, and always with a smile on your face. You are gone but never forgotten, and I am proud to have known you and called you friend. Raider 4 Life and Semper Fi." Cpl Adam of"You'll always be in our hearts Love ya Bro" Lcpl Castor of Grand rapids MI"Dondo, I will never forget those long cold boat rides with you during the 11th MEU SOC work up. I will always remember how no matter how bad it got, you always had that smile that made everything seem alright no matter how shitty things were. The company has been up to the 1st Marines Memorial 4 times since your death, and I go up there at least twice a month. I will always remember what your death has taught me, and I will never forget what you sacrificed. Your fellow Raiders will always remember you." 1st Lt Richard of A Co 1st BN, 4th Marines"Mr and Mrs Arredondo, your son was on my Amtrac in OIF I. I was the vehicle commander and watched your son fight bravely during the war. He was a fine young man who had a great sense of humor and had lots of friend. I still have an Iraqi flag hanging in my room with his signature and comments on it. It was a pleasure to serve with him and I am very sorry that he is no longer with us. My thoughts and prayers are with you." Ssgt Kirkland of"It saddens me every day when I look into the ranks of First Platoon Raiders and I neither see Lcpl. Arredondo or PFC Skinner. Alex was one of my best and a fine young man. I miss him every day along with Nicholas and I wish I could have them both back. But because I served with great men like Alex, It is his memory that keeps me going strong every day to be the best in what ever I am doing. I have decided to stay in the Marine Corps for as long as the Corps will keep me. I dedicate my time and service to my fallen Warriors. For the rest of my life, I will always be proud to have been that platoon Sgt of Alex and Nicholas. Semper Fi and I will see you again. Respctfully Simon L. Sandoval SSgt
Alpha Company Raider 1st Platoon" Simon of Califronia"I was with him when God took him to a better place and I will say that he is and was one of a kind. He definitely watched out for his fellow Marines on countless missions before the last. I have so much admiration for him eventhough I am much older. To the families.....LCpl Arrendondo was truly a hero to remember everyday of our lives....I will never forget him and Skinner for as long as I live. May God bless you all." SSgt Johns 1/4 Alpha Company of"I had Alex in my Company for OIF1 and OIF2, all my young Marines are like sons to me. LCpl Arredondo will, and is still truly missed by his fellow Hero's. His spirit will forever be in Alpha Company, Alpha Raider for life, we love you! "SOME GAVE ALL, ALL GAVE SOME."
AUGUST 2004" 1stSgt Synovec of ."ALEX WAS A GOOD MAN AND I AM SURE HE WAS A EVEN BETTER SOLDIER, WISH I GOT TO KNOW YA BETTER. U WILL BE MISSED DEARLY" SPC JOHN US ARMY of FORT SHAFTER HAWAII"dondo you were my team leader, brother and my friend. i will guide my marines like u guided me. i will never forget you. i love u bro" Lcpl Brittner 1st plt 3rd sqd 3rd team of FOB Duke"This young man would have been a great leader - they say there is only one born per century - we were short changed. Rest in peace Lance Corporal Arredondo - you affected many lives in a positive manner." T of"Rest in peace Raider. You are truly missed." 1stSgt Young, Alpha Raider of FOB Echo"Dondo, you're of the greatest guys I ever knew. I've never met anyone that I could joke around with for hours and we'd still make each other laugh. It took an original mind to come up with some of the antics you and I performed, and thats probably one of the biggest things I'll miss about you. You and I were a lot alike, and I'll never forget the times we shared last year in . Those were some of the best times in my life, and that was largely due to you, and your company. I hope you watch over me and allow yourself to laugh at me now and again, like old times. I love you man, and I'll always have the pictures to remember you." Brent, SS Plt, 1/4 of
Sorry for the long post.
Until next time, Enjoy our moments for Alex, moments he no longer has.......