The man in the cowboy hat: Marathon hero has known pain of loss

Miami HeraldApril 16, 2013 

One of the most searing and iconic images of Monday’s bomb blasts in Boston is a long-haired man wearing a cowboy hat, comforting a traumatized victim who appeared to have lost his legs in one of the explosions.

The man in the hat is named Carlos Arredondo, and he is being heralded as a hero who, ironically has spent most of the last decade grieving over his own son’s death serving our country in the fight against terrorism.

Alex Arredondo, 20, was killed in Iraq in 2004. When the military team arrived at Arredondo’s home in Hollywood to deliver the news, the Costa Rica native, devastated, torched the military van with a can of gasoline. He was hospitalized for months with second-degree burns.

The incident made national headlines, and spurred a debate over whether he should be charged with a crime. (He wasn’t.)

He recovered and became a peace activist and grieved publicly over the loss of his son by displaying makeshift memorials, a mobile flag-draped coffin bearing the uniform, dog tags, and Purple Heart of his son.

“As long as there are Marines fighting and dying in Iraq, I’m going to share my mourning with the American people,” he told The New York Times six years ago.

In the years since, Arredondo, now 52, continued working as a peace activist, traveling around the country, organizing protests and supporting other activists’ efforts to end war. Originally from New England, he returned to the Boston area to be closer to his 24-year-old son Brian, who was despondent over the loss of his brother.

In December 2011, Brian Arredondo committed suicide.

That same year, a post office in Jamaica Plain, Mass. was named in honor of Alex Arredondo, who grew up nearby. Before enlisting in the Marines out of high school, he had moved to Hollywood to live with his father.

Arredondo was at the Boston Marathon cheering for a friend who was running in his sons’ memory. He was just steps away from where the first bomb exploded, witnessing much of the carnage.

His actions mirrored his own son’s heroism as Arredondo grabbed a wheelchair and began pushing a victim toward ambulances, while holding the man’s bleeding leg.

“I kept talking to him. I kept saying, ‘Stay with me, stay with me,’ ”a trembling Arredondo told The Portland Press Herald afterward.

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