Melida Arredondo said her husband knew what was coming as three uniformed Marines approached their front door.
And when they told him Wednesday afternoon that his Marine son, Lance Cpl. Alexander Arredondo, had been killed in combat in Iraq, Carlos Arredondo simply snapped, police say.
Arredondo climbed into the Marine Corps van parked outside his home and set it ablaze, suffering severe burns.
“This is his scream that his child is dead. The war needs to stop,” Melida Arredondo, who had rushed home from work when she heard the news, said Thursday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
The military had informed her husband that his 20-year-old son, who is Melida Arredondo’s stepson, died Tuesday in Najaf, family members said.
The father then walked into the garage, picking up a propane tank, a can of gasoline and a lighting device, police Capt. Tony Rode said. He smashed the van’s window, got inside and set it ablaze, despite attempts by the Marines to stop him, Rode said.
The Marines, reservists who are members of a military Casualty Assistance Calls Officer team, pulled Arredondo, 44, from the burning vehicle and extinguished the flames on him, police said. None of the Marines was injured, but the van was gutted, officials said.
“The father was in disbelief, same as any of us would be after hearing this kind of news,” Rode said. “But then the father basically loses it. You can only imagine what this father was going through. He snapped, to say the least.”
Arredondo was taken to Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood with burns over as much as 50 percent of his body and was later transferred to a Miami hospital burn unit, where he was in serious condition with severe burns to his arms and legs. His wife said he was expected to recover.
Son was ‘upbeat’ on last day
Alexander Arredondo, who grew up in Massachusetts, “knew at age 16 that he wanted to go into the Marines,” his mother, Victoria Foley, told the Patriot Ledger of Quincy, Mass. She and Carlos Arredondo divorced in the late 1980s.
She told the newspaper that she spoke to her son the day he died.
“He said that it was going to get bad, and he was really happy where he was, Najaf. He was upbeat,” Foley said.
Melida Arredondo told The Miami Herald that her husband, an immigrant from Costa Rica, “was very proud of Alex serving,” although he wished his service would have been during a more peaceful time.
But Luz Marina Arredondo, Alexander’s grandmother, felt the government was at fault for her grandson’s death.
“I blame them a lot,” she said. “They send them like guinea pigs over there.”
Rode said it was too early in the investigation to discuss possible charges against Arredondo. “We’ll see how he recovers before doing anything,” he said.
U.S. forces in Najaf have been battling for nearly five months against Iraqi militiamen loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The Iraqi government announced a peace deal late Thursday.