Local hero remembered

January 7, 2011
By

Rebeca Oliveira


Gazette File Photo by John Swan
Gold Star father Carlos Arredondo celebrates the Wake Up the Earth festival May 5, 2007 and the memory of his son, Alex, who was killed in Iraq. Arredondo and his wife Melida have been a outspoken opponents of the war. A proposal to name the JP post office after Alex Arredondo was on President Obama’s desk this week.

Post office to be named after Iraq vet

JP CENTER—Congress has approved the bill, and if President Obama signs it, the Jamaica Plain post office at 655 Centre St., will be renamed “Lance Corporal Alexander Scott Arredondo, United States Marine Corps Post Office Building.”

Alex Arredondo, a Randolph native who was raised in Jamaica Plain, was killed August 25, 2004 in Najaf, Iraq while on his second tour of duty. His father, Carlos Arredondo, a Roslindale resident, became nationally known after setting himself on fire when notified of Alex Arredondo’s death. Carlos is now a full-time anti-war protester.

Sponsored by US Rep. Mike Capuano, co-sponsored by all nine other Massachusetts representatives and supported by Sens. John Kerry and Scott Brown, the bill passed both houses of Congress by Dec. 16, and was presented to the President on Dec. 28. As of publication time, the bill was still on the President’s desk, though. Obama is expected to sign it.

The renaming ceremony will take place this year, and a plaque inside the post office will celebrate Alex Arredondo, according to a spokesperson from Capuano’s office.

“It was a nice Christmas gift, after such an effort,” Carlos Arredondo told the Gazette. This will be the second post office in Massachusetts named after an Iraq War casualty, according to Alex’s stepmother, Mélida Arredondo. The first was named after Lance Cpl. Eric Valdepenas, in Seekonk.

“This is a small way to honor the memory of Lcpl. Arredondo, who sacrificed his life for all of us. He was a dedicated and selfless individual, and my thoughts are with his family, who endured such a tremendous loss,” Capuano said in a press release.

“This dedication will forever honor the courage and sacrifice of Lcpl. Arredondo,” Kerry said in that release. “We hope this memorial serves as a reminder to Arredondo’s family and loved ones that his service will never be forgotten.”

“No action on our part can approach the bravery and commitment of Lance Corporal Arredondo,” Brown said in the same release. “Renaming this post office in his honor will serve as a small tribute to his sacrifice, and I am pleased the Senate has moved forward with this measure.”

“This [JP] is where Alex used to be involved. You’d see him, his brother Brian and Carlos, they used to be everywhere,” Mélida Arredondo told the Gazette.

In the battle leading to his death, Alex Arredondo led his fellow Marines through a four-story building in order to secure it. His squad gained control of the building after enduring intense enemy fighting.

Alex Arredondo was mortally wounded by a sniper as he checked on the security of his fellow Marines. He received the Navy Commendation Medal with Combat V and the Purple Heart for his actions.

When Marines notified Carlos Arredondo of Alex’s death at his then-home in Florida, he set the Marines’ van on fire while seated inside it, sustaining severe burns over 26 percent of his body. Carlos Arredondo attended Alex’s funeral at St. Thomas Aquinas Church on a stretcher.

Carlos Arredondo then quit his day job and has been a full-time protester since, driving across the country in his truck decorated with flags and mementos of Alex. He can often be seen around JP and Roslindale, working on local efforts.

“We’ve been working in the state house with legislators, working the streets, and participating in a few marches in Dorchester, trying to change policies,” Carlos Arredondo said.

Carlos and Mélida Arredondo have established a scholarship at Alex’s alma mater, Blue Hills Regional Technical School. This will be the sixth year that they will distribute scholarships to Marine and Marine reservist families.

“To best honor Alex, we want to do things that will be here even after we’re gone,” Mélida Arredondo said. “We want to remember the community, for all the help they gave with the scholarship.”