The body of Marine Lance Cpl. Ricardo Rodriguez Jr. of Lindenhurst, who was found dead near his barracks at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina last week, was returned by air to Long Island Friday accompanied by a military escort and his family.
Rodriguez, 25, who served in Afghanistan and more recently returned from an assignment in Africa, had been scheduled to be discharged in October after four years of service. He will be buried Tuesday with full military honors, according to a family spokesman.
Rodriguez was found early Aug. 14 and was pronounced dead at Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is probing the death.
"He was the best son, the best person that there could ever be," Ricardo Rodriguez Sr., the soldier's father, said through the spokesman.
During his service as a Marine, Rodriguez was awarded a combat action ribbon, two service ribbons, a Good Conduct Medal and a National Defense Service Medal.
He grew up in Central Islip and later moved to Lindenhurst, where his family has lived for the past eight years. He graduated from St. John the Baptist Diocesan High School in West Islip where he played three years of varsity football and was a catcher on the varsity baseball team. He also played junior varsity basketball.
He later attended American Institute College in Springfield, Massachusetts, where he played Division II football on a team that won its conference championship. "He was known as a great young man to all his friends," said Babylon Republican chairman Tony Pancella, a family friend. "He was a tough kid and someone very proud to be a Marine."
Survivors include his father, his mother Sylvia, his grandmother Maria Rodriguez, and two sisters, Sonia, and Manuela Hall of East Northport.
The wake will be held at Lindenhurst Funeral Home Sunday and Monday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9:30 p.m. A funeral Mass will be celebrated Tuesday at 10 a.m. at St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church in Bay Shore. Burial will follow at Breslau Cemetery in Lindenhurst.