Fiancee hopes to get fallen Marine's poem back after purse stolen


FAIRHAVEN, Mass. ( -- Local Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Rodriguez carried a poem with him, and after he was killed, his family carried it with them to honor him. But now, that Fairhaven family needs help after someone stole it.

On Sunday, someone broke in to the pick-up truck his fiancee Julia Tapper drives, and stole her purse. Inside the purse were priceless items that belonged to the man she calls the love of her life.

The 2001 GMC pick-up - she wouldn't dream of driving anything else. The truck belonged to Rodriguez. It was Matt's baby, passed down from his father, to his sister and then to him

"We spent a lot of time in that truck too, during high school and of course before he went to boot camp," she said.

Last December, while serving in Afghanistan, Matt was killed by an improvised explosive device, at just 19 years old. The young Marine was just 19 years old

"She lost the love of her life, and all the plans she had for her life revolved around my son," said Matt's mother, Lisa Rodriguez. "He loved her very much, and our family was better with her in it."

Since Matt's death the truck has become sacred to Julia. In there, Matt lives on.

"Every time I sit in it, it's just like an instant calmer."

On Sunday, Julia drove the truck to New Bedford and parked it in the lot of the restaurant where she works. In broad daylight, somebody broke the driver side window and took Julia's purse.

In that purse was Matt's old iPhone with pictures and videos of the couple only he had, including a video of their engagement. Julia also kept a poem she had written to Matthew shortly before he was deployed.

Matt had laminated it and carried it everywhere. It was found in his helmet the day he was killed. 

It's just one more heartache for a young woman who has already endured so much.

"It's a constant, subconscious thought. It's just there. He's gone," Julia said. "And it's not okay."

Matt's phone and the poem are priceless to Julia.

It's a sad story, and she can only hope that this one chapter might end well.

"I would do anything to have it back - just that stuff. Keep the purse. It wasn't even that nice," she said. ""We had a huge future ahead of us. We wanted to do so much, and travel. He couldn't wait to start a family and I couldn't wait to start a family."

The truck was parked outside a restaurant at 901 Hathaway Road in New Bedford, right near Route 6. The break-in happened sometime between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.
"I just hope somebody could just drop it off if they still have it, or write a note where they threw it," she said.

Service had been disconnected from the iPhone. Julia says it's unique because Matt had spilled red paint on it.
The poem is just a sheet of paper, ripped from a note and laminated with tape.

If you know anything about the theft or the missing items, please call the New Bedford police.