Elizabeth, N.J., grieves for a fallen son

January 14, 1993|By New York Times News Service

ELIZABETH, N.J. -- The first United States military man killed in Somalia had moved here from Puerto Rico as a teen-ager, to a bleak low-rise housing project.

Though Pfc. Domingo Arroyo had spent more time on military bases than on this city's streets since joining the Marines three years ago, the city yesterday closed ranks around his grieving family.

The mayor of Elizabeth, J. Christian Bollwage, who visited Private Arroyo's family yesterday with Congressman Donald M. Payne, said that the family was "deeply grieved" and that the Marine's mother was too distraught to speak.

Mr. Bollwage ordered flags in the city flown at half-staff.

The 21-year-old Marine was killed about 10 p.m. Tuesday after his 11-member patrol was ambushed in an area of abandoned warehouses in Mogadishu by a number of Somali gunmen, said a Marine spokesman, Bill Wright.

Private Arroyo had served in the Persian Gulf War and had received a medal for his duty, Mr. Wright said.

He had lived with his mother, Ramona Ortiz, in the Mralag Manor houses after moving here from Caguas, Puerto Rico, about eight years ago, family members said. He joined the Marines in July 1989, one month after graduating from Elizabeth High School.

Private Arroyo, a member of the 3d Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment based in Twentynine Palms, Calif., had been trained as a radio wireman, Mr. Wright said. He had been sent to Somalia on Dec. 29.

An uncle who did not want to give his name called his nephew a hero. "But he's a dead hero," he said. "Who is going to bring him back?"

The uncle described him as an athletic young man, a boxer, who wanted to return to Elizabeth after his service, go to college, and "get his mom out of this place."

Mr. Bollwage said that Private Arroyo's mother asked that her younger son, Ramon, 19, who is on a Navy ship off the coast of Somalia, be sent home for the funeral and that the request would be made to authorities.

"The young Marine has brought out what is best in all of Elizabeth by representing us on a mission of mercy," Mr. Bollwage said. "He is the first to pay the ultimate price in a non-war situation in delivering those qualities that America represents."

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