By Ariel Wittenberg
December 18, 2013 1:45 PM
Lance Cpl. Matthew R. Rodriguez will be coming home Thursday in a dignified transfer ceremony at the New Bedford Airport.
Rodriguez, 19, died Dec. 11 in Afghanistan's Helmund Province while conducting combat operations.
A plane carrying his body from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware is scheduled to arrive at New Bedford Airport at 1 p.m. Thursday. Family members, as well as New Bedford, Fairhaven and State Police as well as various fire departments and honor guards will be there to meet him.
Also attending will be the Patriot Guard, Leather Necks, Band of Brothers and Iron Order motorcycle clubs.
Rodriguez's family has a deep connection to the New Bedford Airport, said family friend and airport Commissioner Michael Kenabbe.
Rodriguez's mother, Lisa, is the Vice President of Atlantic Aviators, a chapter of the Women in Aviation organization that encourages women to take on careers in science and technology.
Kenabbe said Lisa was the driving force behind the construction of a new aviation-themed playground at the airport this fall. On Wednesday, that playground was named the Lance Cpl. Matthew R. Rodriguez Memorial Playground.
From the airport, the procession will turn down Route 140 via Downey Street and to Route 195. It will go down Route 18 and cross the Fairhaven Bridge before turning right on Main Street and left on Center Street to pass by Rodriguez's home there. Then it will turn left on Tripp Street and right on Washington Street, back onto Route 6, where Rodriguez's body will be delivered to the Saunders-Dwyer Funeral Home in Mattapoisett.
A wake will be held Sunday from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the funeral home. The funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. Monday at the First Congregational Church at 34 Center Street in Fairhaven. Rodriguez will be laid to rest at the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne.
The Rodriguez family did not wish to speak with The Standard-Times Wednesday, but Kenabbe said his mother wanted people to know that "Matt always had a smile on his face."
"His fiancee's father always called him the smiling warrior," Kenabbe said.
Rodriguez's father, Roland, also served in the Marines, serving as an example for his son.
"Him going into the Marines was following his father's footsteps," Kenabbe said.