Saturday, March 17, 2007

Angel Rosa dies of wounds received during combat operation

Angel Rosa brought a tough persona to the soccer pitch at South Portland High School in Maine, where he captained the squad before his graduation in 2004.

But off the field, his former coach said, Rosa was a caring, charismatic young man who served as an inspiring role model for children.

The coach, Jon Shardlow, cried yesterday as he spoke of Rosa, 21, a Marine private who died Tuesday during combat in Anbar Province in Iraq.

"He was just a special kid," Shardlow said. "He had such a great spirit. It's unfortunate when you lose someone who had so much to give."

Rosa had been in Iraq since January, deployed 11 months after he joined the Marines and trained as an infantry rifleman.

"He called me almost every day," his wife, Elise, said in a telephone interview from her mother-in-law's home in South Portland. "He didn't tell me too much, because he didn't want me to worry, except to say that he was really hot and really tired and that he just missed home a lot and nice food."

Rosa is the 16th member of the armed forces from Maine to be killed in the Iraq war. He had been assigned to the Third Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 6, Second Marine Division, Second Marine Expeditionary Force, based at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

His wife, whom he married in May, said the Marines represented "the ultimate challenge" for someone who always strived for excellence.

"It was something new every day," she said. "He had something to push himself for, and he liked that. He was so good at everything he did."

Shardlow said Rosa, who played sweeper, showed an extraordinary maturity for his age. After a teammate's father had died, Shardlow recalled, Rosa comforted the coaches, who had maintained a stoic facade for the squad, but then released their emotions behind closed doors.

"There was a knock, and Angel and a teammate came in," Shardlow said. "They just gave us a hug. It was such a selfless act of a man of his age to recognize what we, as adults, were going through. He knew that we needed it as much as anyone else."

The discipline and camaraderie of sports attracted Rosa, Shardlow said.

"Sports were one of the things that kept Angel engaged with the academic process, and I think he found a lot of strength from his teammates," Shardlow said. "I'm guessing he was able to find a similar environment and similar structure in the military, and I'm sure it served him very well."

Governor John E. Baldacci ordered flags to be flown at half-staff on the day of Rosa's funeral. Arrangements had not been finalized yesterday, family members said.

"I am deeply saddened by the loss of another young life," Baldacci said in a statement. "When his country called him, Private First Class Rosa answered. There's not enough we can do to honor his sacrifice.

"His mother said her son was always the first into battle, was always leading from the front," the governor added. "She also said the people of South Portland have opened their arms to her family and have been incredibly supportive."

From the Globe