Here and Now with Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
Friday, August 31, 2012

Casualties Of War: Brian And Alex Arredondo

A photo of Alex and Brian. (Courtesy of the Arrendondo Family)

A photo of Alex and Brian. (Courtesy of the Arredondo Family)

Carlos and Melida Arredondo live in a friendly neighborhood in Roslindale, Massachusetts. I was with them last Sunday for a memorial mass for Carlos’ son, Alexander, who was a 20-year-old Marine lance corporal when he was killed in Iraq in 2004. Last Saturday, was the eighth anniversary of his death.

After the service at Sacred Heart Church we walked to the modest home they share with their dogs Buddy and Chica.

Carlos was in Florida on August 25th 2004, when military officials came to tell him that Alex was dead. He was so distraught he grabbed some gasoline and tried to set himself on fire in the van the military officials had driven.

A Second Loss

“I was very fortunate and lucky, when the van where I was that caught on fire and blew up,” said Carlos. “It threw me out of the van, I survived that moment… The situation, sometimes, it takes a bit of a second just to happen.”

Carlos says that was a suicide attempt, and it was a sign of things to come for Carlos, Melida and Brian, Carlos’ younger son, as they all struggled to deal with Alex’s death. They all suffered mental and sometimes physical problems.

“The three of us were constantly, Carlos, myself, were in some kind of institution or another,” said Melida Arredendo. “It was devastating. That’s when Carlos had the Bell’s Palsy, he couldn’t move, he was in so much pain. He couldn’t move from the floor. I went to work one day and he was still there in the same place when I came home.”

It was especially bad for Brian because he was extremely close to his older brother. Alex’s death sent him reeling: dropping out of school, alcohol abuse, and finally something unthinkable.

Brian killed himself last December just as U.S. troops were leaving Iraq and the war his brother didn’t come home from was ending. At his funeral, a family friend said Brian was never the same after Alex died.

“Days before that I remember how emotional he was when he saw images on the T.V. about ‘Welcome Home’ troops, and the gatherings with the families,” said Carlos. “So it affected him a lot.”

Grief Fuels Activism

Now, Carlos Arredondo wears buttons with pictures of Brian and Alex on them. The home he shares with Melida is sort of a shrine to their boys, there are photos of them together all over the wall.

Carlos drives a pickup that has a huge bumper sticker on it that says “Suicide Prevention.” He and Melida have channeled their grief into advocacy for military families. You can see them everywhere there’s a veterans event in the Boston area.

Melida and Carlos Arrendondo at their home. (Here & Now/Alex Ashlock)

Melida and Carlos Arredondo at their home. (Here & Now/Alex Ashlock)

They work with organizations like Veterans For Peace, and last weekend here in Boston, they helped hundreds–yes, hundreds–of homeless veterans get access to services and simple things like clothes and eye glasses.

“I sometimes get existential and think to myself, ‘Both Brian and Alex are no longer going through the pain of living in this world,'” says Melida. “And here are these many men and women, who we served the last few days, who are still have to live with the pain. Which is more challenging. On a personal level it does help to stay occupied, to keep me grounded in this world.”

“It’s just something that needs to be done,” said Carlos. “And we are part of what we went through with the loss of Brian. And that experience that we have, we want to share that with others as much as we can. To work with others as much as we can, because it’s important. Very, very important.”

Alex and Brian Arredondo are buried side by side in rural cemetery in Walpole, Massachusetts. Their graves both have headstones like you see on the graves of service members who have fallen in battle.

And you could say they both did.


  • Carlos Arredondo, father of Carlos and Alexander Arredondo
  • Melida Arrendono, step-mother of Carlos and Alexander Arrendondo

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.

Experts share a range of perspectives on how to combat the Islamic State militant group, and the role the U.S. should play.

Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

November 26 6 Comments

Arlo Guthrie Celebrates 50 Years Of ‘Alice’s Restaurant’

Listening to the 18-minute musical monologue has been a Thanksgiving tradition among folk music fans for decades.

November 26 Comment

One Refugee’s Story Of Coming To America

Paul Okot vividly remembers landing at JFK airport in New York at 7 years old, after fleeing violence in southern Sudan.

November 25 3 Comments

Rapper Le1f Finds Struggle And Moral Diversity In American Music

We've been asking musicians what they think of when they think "American music." Today we hear from Khalif Diouf, aka Le1f.

November 24 7 Comments

Ferguson: One Year Later

City council member Wesley Bell looks back on the past year since protests and violence swept the Missouri city.