Locust Valley shopkeepers came out of their stores to watch as community leaders and old friends recalled Sgt. Robert A. Hendriks — his courage, his good nature and his sacrifice — during a street-renaming ceremony Saturday in honor of the Marine who was killed in action two years ago.
Speaker after speaker — from members of Congress to his childhood buddy — spoke glowingly of the neighborhood kid who loved riding dirtbikes and practicing Tae Kwon Do. Soon after high school, Hendriks enlisted in the U.S. Marines’ 2nd Battalion, 25th Marines reserve infantry battalion. He went to Afghanistan in May 2018, where he was a turret gunner perched atop an armored vehicle.
Hendriks was one of three Marines killed in Afghanistan on April 8, 2019, by an improvised explosive device ambush, as their convoy returned home to base, officials said.
On the second anniversary of his death, the community honored him by renaming a portion of Forest Avenue between Birch Hill Road and Birch Street as Sgt. Robert A. Hendriks Way.
"Hard work, discipline and responsibility. Never give up — that was the way he lived his life," said Nassau County Legis. Joshua Lafazan, who sponsored the renaming approved by the county Legislature.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran extended a special message to Hendriks' family and mother, Felicia Arculeo, who was in attendance.
"You do not grieve alone," Curran said. "We grieve with you. We claim him as one of us, our son, our brother."
His mother honored her son in a written statement, saying, "Nothing ever stopped him. As tough as he was, his heart was big, he had a smile that was warm and friendly, a great sense of humor and was great at busting chops, but knew how to make fun of himself as well."
Veterans, active duty military, family and friends were among the about 100 people who attended the ceremony on Forest Avenue.
Sgt. Valiant Bradley Cocchi, a friend of Hendriks in Afghanistan, said everyone called him "Henny." He recalled how, on a two-week leave, Cocchi convinced his friend to get up and sing during a beer-filled karaoke night in Rome.
"We lived like kings during those two weeks," said Cocchi, a white cap topping his dress uniform.
Christopher Tasso, a friend of Hendriks growing up, said his buddy had a John Wayne poster in his living room that said, "Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway."
"Over time," Tasso said, "the memory of that picture has become inseparable from the memory of my friend."