Costa Rican immigrant and father of fallen Iraq War solider, Carlos Arredondo has emerged as the hero of the Boston Marathon tragedy this past Monday.
Sitting in the bleachers with his wife Melinda, American flags in hand, Arredondo was poised at the finish line to greet runners from the National Guard and a suicide support group, running in honor of his two dead sons.
His son, Lance Cpl. Alexander S. Arredondo died in Iraq in 2004 in a firefight in Najaf. His other son, Brian, committed suicide in 2011, after suffering for several years with chronic depression.
The day he learned his son had been killed, Arredondo locked himself in a van with five gallons of gasoline and a propane torch and set the van on fire. He was burned on 26 percent of his body and attended his son’s funeral on a stretcher.
But once the mourning father heard the explosion and saw the blood bath, he immediately sprinted across the street from where he was sitting, ripped away the snow fence and scaffolding that separated him from the struggling victims, and sprung into action helping the critically injured.
“My first reaction was to run toward the people,” he told ABC. “There was so much commotion and a lot of people running away. I was one of the first to help people and God protected me. It was horrific.”
According to NBC, Arredondo used his clothes and towels to help many victims on the scene. At one point (in a dramatic photo that has now become iconic) Arredondo can be see using his bare hands to keep pressure on the severed thigh artery of a young victim who lost both of his legs hours later.
In the years since his 24-year-old son’s death in Iraq, Arredondo has changed courses completely. He’s become a peace activist and spends his days honoring the fallen and protesting the Iraq war. He can be seen maneuvering a kind of makeshift “mobile memorial”–a truck outfitted with a mock-coffin filled with photos of Alexander and some of his favorite possessions.
“As long as there are Marines fighting and dying in Iraq,” he told The New York Times in 2007, “I’m going to share my mourning with the American people.”