The body of a 19-year-old Marine from Fairhaven who was killed in action in Afghanistan was returned to Massachusetts on Thursday.
A military honor guard was on hand at New Bedford Regional Airport, where the remains of Lance Cpl. Matthew Rodriguez arrived on a plane from Dover Air Force Base at about 1 p.m.
Rodriguez was killed in combat operations Dec. 11 in Helmand Province.
About 200 people gathered at a playground near the tarmac to pay tribute to his sacrifice. The playground was dedicated to him.
"It's very important. It's important to the families. It's important to Americans to honor these heroes. We all need to be here," said Patricia Verronneau, whose nephew died in Afghanistan in 2009.
Police officers and firefighters joined relatives as the body was taken in a procession to a funeral home in Mattapoisett, passing Rodriguez's home along the way.
A wake will be held from 1 to 7 p.m. Sunday at Saunders-Dwyer Funeral Home at 50 County Road. A funeral is scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday at the First Congregational Church at 34 Center St. in Fairhaven.
Rodriguez will be buried will full honors at the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne.
Rodriguez was a 2012 graduate of the plumbing program at Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School.
He leaves behind his parents, siblings and his fiancée, in addition to extended family.
Family members said remembrances may be made to the Wounded Warrior Project, P.O. Box 758517, Topeka, KS 66675.
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