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Funeral services set for 7th Group soldier killed in Afghanistan

Photo of flags at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., May 17, 2013. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley/TNS)
February 18, 2020

Funeral services for one of the two Army 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) soldiers who died during combat Feb. 8 in Afghanistan are scheduled for Friday in his hometown of Las Cruces, New Mexico, according to an obituary from the city’s Getz Funeral Home.

Sgt. 1st Class Antonio Rey Rodriguez, 28, will be interred early next month at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, according to the obituary. Funeral services will be held at noon Friday at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Las Cruces.

Rodriguez, an Army Ranger serving with the 7th Group’s 3rd Battalion, died along with 7th Group Green Beret Sgt. 1st Class Javier Jaguar Gutierrez, in what is being described as an insider attack in eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar Province.

Six other 7th Group personnel were wounded in the attack, which reportedly came as they were waiting for helicopter transport following a meeting with key local leaders. An investigation into the incident, routine in cases such as this, is ongoing.

The remains of Rodriguez and Gutierrez returned to American soil on Feb. 10, and were met at Delaware’s Dover Air Force Base by President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., and other officials, along with the soldiers’ families.

According to the obituary, Rodriguez is survived by his wife Ronaleen, whom he married in April of 2017, his parents, two brothers and a sister.

Rodriguez, a 2009 graduate of Mayfield High School in Las Cruces who was known to family and friends as “Rod,” enjoyed spending time with family, friends, and his dogs, two Italian mastiffs and a French bulldog, according to the obituary.

Also according to the obituary, Rodriguez “spent most of his free time in the kitchen,” where “he loved to cook gourmet meals for his friends and loved ones.”

He and his wife also spent time in the gym, where Rodriguez “enjoyed powerlifting and endurance workouts,” the obituary noted. Rodriguez also was an avid United States Pistol Shooting Association (USPSA) competitor, according to his obituary.

Rodriguez joined the Army shortly after graduating from high school, and trained as an infantryman before attending Airborne parachuting school. He then trained as an Army Ranger and was assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment. After training with an intelligence battalion, Rodriguez was assigned to the military intelligence detachment of the 7th Group’s 3rd Battalion.

Rodriguez deployed multiple times to Afghanistan — eight times with the 75th Ranger Regiment, and twice with the 7th Group — in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, part of the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan.

Rodriguez’s decorations include two Bronze Star Medals and the Expert and Combat Infantryman badges. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, Combat Action Badge, Bronze Star Medal and Meritorious Service Medal.

Rodriguez’s funeral comes as the United States and the Taliban, the Islamic fundamentalist group waging war in Afghanistan, have reportedly reached some sort of truce, set to begin within the next few days.

According to media reports, if that reduction in violence holds up, it could be followed by an agreement under which thousands of U.S. troops would be withdrawn from Afghanistan as the Taliban begins direct negotiations with Afghan leadership.

The United States has been in Afghanistan for nearly 20 years, making it the longest war in American military history.


© 2020 The Walton Sun