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3rd ID, families mourn fallen heroes

Ten trees added to Warriors Walk

POSTED: October 6, 2007 5:04 a.m.
When Spc. Jaime Rodriguez Jr. was three months old, his mother, Dulce Soto, nicknamed him “Pollito,” or “little chicken,” because of the yellow pajamas she dressed him in. Now, nearly 20 years later, she can call her middle child one of America’s brave fallen heroes.
After years of being labeled “the lanky kid with wire-rimmed eyeglasses,” Rodriguez joined the Army in November 2005 because he enjoyed the team mentality of training and serving and thought it was the best alternative to going to college.
He became a member of the 3rd Infantry Division after completing basic training at Fort Knox in Kentucky in July 2006 and deployed to Iraq in January of this year.
A cavalry scout for the division’s 5th Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, Rodriguez participated in foot and vehicle patrols, combat and search operations and worked with the Iraqi army.
It was during one of these missions the 19-year-old was killed when a roadside bomb detonated near the vehicle he was patrolling in in Saqlawiyah, Iraq, on July 26.
Known as a determined leader among his comrades, Rodriguez was one of 10 soldiers memorialized during Thursday’s tree dedication ceremony on Fort Stewart’s Warriors Walk.
Third ID Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch attended for the first time since March and the number of eastern redbud trees and granite markers grew to 369. Family and friends listened to the commanding general’s remarks about each soldier.
“Jaime came a long way from his childhood, when he was nicknamed Pollito ... Jaime’s a soldier, a son and a brother,” Lynch said of Rodriguez. “His determination and can-do attitude will always be remembered.”
Soto recently told an L.A. Times reporter she did not support the war in Iraq, but said she respected her son’s decision to join the Army and acknowledged how service turned her once shy and awkward little boy into a strong, responsible young man.
“When he came back, everyone noticed how he seemed more serious and focused on his commitment to the Army ... I even noticed in the way he hugged me that he had changed,” she said, discussing Rodriguez’s last visit home. “He didn’t hug me with both arms curled around me like he did as a kid, but instead brought me in with one arm firmly, with just enough space to lean in and kiss his cheek. It was still warm, but just different, more like a man.”
Members of the Rodriguez family did not want to talk about the loss of the young soldier after the ceremony, opting instead to let pictures speak for themselves.

Complete list of 3rd ID soldiers honored during Thursday’s tree ceremony
• Sgt. William R. Howdeshell, 37, of Norfolk, Va.
• Spc. Jaime Rodriguez, Jr., 19, of Oxnard, Calif.
• Spc. Charles E Bilbrey, Jr., 21, of Owego, N.Y.
• Staff Sgt. William D. Scates, 31, of Oklahoma City
• Sgt. Andrew W. Lancaster, 23, of Stockton, Ill.
• Sgt. Scott L. Kirkpatrick, 26, of Reston, Va.
• Spc. Justin O. Penrod, 24, of Mahomet, Ill.
• Pfc. William L. Edwards, 23, of Houston
• Spc. Alun R. Howells, 20, of Parlin, Colo.
• 1st Lt. Jonathan W. Edds, 24, of White Pigeon, Mich.
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