Sunday, December 4, 2011

Camp Alex

The post office at 655 Centre Street in Jamaica Plain has been renamed in honor of a neighborhood hero. Now the flag waves in front of the Lance Corporal Alexander Scott Arredondo, United States Marine Corps Post Office Building. The ceremony this summer was attended by the family, as well as Mayor Thomas Menino, Congressman Michael Capuano, Congressman Stephen Lynch, state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz and Postmaster James J. Holland. Lance Corporal Alexander Scott Arredondo is a neighborhood hero. 

Arredondo led fellow Marines through enemy territory in order to take control of a strategically important four story building in Iraq. In the midst of the battle, Arredondo was “personally clearing rooms and assuming the greatest risk … never slowing down and never showing any fear,” said the Lieutenant General in a written account. When he went to check the security of fellow Marines, he was shot by a sniper. His squad secured the building after enduring prolonged fire. Tragically, Arredondo’s wound proved fatal. For his actions he received both the Navy Commendation Medal with Combat Valor and the Purple Heart. His family deeply mourns his passing. 

You may have seen his father, Carlos Arredondo. He has become a familiar sight at the Occupy Boston Dewey Square site. He has a tent, with Memorials for his son and signs for different causes. He is not new to practicing his right to demonstrate. For the last six years, he and his wife have travelled the country sharing their grief, and protesting the human cost of war full-time.

He made national and international headlines on August 26, 2004. After learning of his son’s death, Arredondo Sr. smashed a windshield with a sledgehammer. He then doused himself in gasoline and got into the van of the Marines who came to his home. He set himself on fire. It was the man’s birthday. When he had seen the Marine van pull up, he thought his son had returned for a surprise visit. The grief was shocking. 

Severe burns covered 26% of his body. He was self-employed and uninsured at the time. His recovery took over a year. Carlos attended his son’s funeral on a stretcher. Since that time, the family has found new ways to remember their son. 

“To best honor Alex, we want to do things that will be here even after we’re gone,” Mélida Arredondo, his stepmother said. 

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

“As a citizen of this country, it’s my duty and my responsibility to participate.” says the senior Arredondo in one interview. 

Arredondo is an immigrant from Costa Rica who now lives in Boston. He can often be seen around Jamaica Plain and Roslindale, driving around in his truck which is adorned with flags and pictures of his son. 

“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 in another interview. “Every day we have G.I.’s being killed, and people don’t really care enough or do enough to protest about how the war is going....As long as there are Marines fighting and dying in Iraq, I’m going to share my mourning with the American people,” he said.

Today, he seems to have found a home for his message at Occupy Boston in Dewey Square, where many veterans are demonstrating for a multitude of causes. His tent is one of the first a person encounters coming from South Station. 

An eye catching bright pink peace sign stands at the entrance. Signs that say “Jobs,” ”Insurance” and “Save our Schools and Libraries” are a few more. Arredondo has a coffin holding some of his son’s things, and crosses for fallen soldiers. He shows people his son’s boots, uniform and dog tags.

Arredondo and his wife are both members of Gold Star Families For Peace. There is little anyone can do to ease the pain of losing a family member to war, however this family has found some way to reach out through the grief and connect with people, even in tragedy. 

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