Frederik Vazquez was deployed to Afghanistan in March of last year. He's being remembered by family members and those who knew him from his years at West Leyden high School.
The Vazquez family of Melrose Park was looking forward to a visit next week from their loved one serving in Afghanistan. He had only been there for four months and wrote to them saying things were bad. He had lost some friends and was looking forward to coming home in a week to celebrate his 20th birthday. On Saturday they were informed of his death and now they are preparing for his funeral.
Relatives came from Mexico, Florida, Texas and California to comfort the family of Lance Corporal Vazquez who died on July 24. The family says his lifelong dream was to become a Marine.
"We could not believe it because he was supposed to come back in a week," said Kimberly Trujillo, Vasquez's cousin. "He always said he wanted to be a Marine."
Vazquez joined the Marines a year ago and was deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in March. He was a rifleman assigned to First Battalion 2nd Marine regiment, regimental combat team. He received a number of awards and recognitions and was promoted quickly.
"He said he just wanted to serve his country and that's why he joined," said Trujillo.
His cousins say they will never forget him, his smile, his love of family and basketball. Edwin and Dennis Ramirez even got tattoos paying tribute to Vazquez. One refers to him as Frederik, the other Erick.
"He used to always give us advice and tell us to finish school. And he always told people how he was a Marine and he always wanted someone in his family to follow his steps. And we admired him because it took courage to go," said Trujillo.
Two years ago Vazquez graduated from West Leyden High School. His counselor Karin Dewey says he was an all around nice young man.
"When something like this happens, it's always devastating but when it happens to someone like Freddy and just a nice, quiet boy that could do no wrong. He made friends really quickly, always had a smile on his face, did well in school, was in ROTC before he came to Leyden, we don't have ROTC here , and always liked the structure of the military," said Dewey.
The family says in recent conversations the young Marine appeared more quiet than usual. This is the third male cousin the family has had to bury in three months. Two others recently died in car accidents.