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Wednesday, Jun 20, 2018
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Fort Hood victims arrive in Tampa today

Two flag-draped coffins, containing bodies of soldiers slain at Fort Hood last week, will arrive at Tampa International Airport today to begin the final leg of their final journeys.

At 3:58 p.m., the body of Army Staff Sgt. Carlos A. Lazaney Rodriguez, 38, is scheduled to arrive on United Airlines Flight 1640 from Texas. Nearly three hours later, the body of Army Sgt. First Class Daniel Ferguson, 39, is scheduled to arrive at 6:50 p.m. on Southwest Airlines Flight 192.

There will be private dignified transfer ceremonies for each soldier on the tarmac and then the bodies will be escorted out of the airport by the Patriot Guard Riders motorcycle organization, said Thomas “T-Man” Brown, Florida Patriot Guard Riders assistant state captain. A number of local troop support organizations will be on hand waving flags at a staging area near the Tampa Airport Mariott.

Investigators say Lazaney Rodriguez, Ferguson and Sgt. Timothy Wayne Owens, 37 of Effington, Il., were gunned down April 2 by Army Spc. Ivan Lopez at the sprawling Texas Army base. When confronted by a base security officer, Lopez committed suicide with his own gun. Army officials say 16 others were wounded, 11 of whom have since reported back to duty. Five remain hospitalized near the base.

One group of motorcycle riders will escort Lazaney Rodriguez's body to the Blount & Curry Funeral Home, 605 S. MacDill Ave., Tampa, according to Brown. A visitation will be held at Blount & Curry Funeral Home-MacDill Avenue Chapel on Monday, April 14 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. with a funeral service starting at 11 a.m. Interment will follow at Florida National Cemetery, Bushnell, said funeral director Michael Shorter.

A second group of riders will escort Ferguson's body to the Lakeland Funeral Home & Memorial Gardens, said Brown. There will be a private funeral Saturday morning at the Resurrection Catholic Church in Lakeland, and then riders will then escort Ferguson to his final resting place at Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell, where there will be a private service later that day, Brown said.

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Lazaney Rodriguez's parents, two of his siblings, Maribel Lazaney Rodriguez and Eduardo Lazaney Rodriguez, and cousin Emmanuel Ramos Rodriguez, live in Tampa, according to the victim's brother, who is a Sgt. 1st Class in the Army Reserves. The victim lived in Tampa in the past, his brother said.

Carlos Lazaney Rodriguez and Lopez did not know each other, said the victim's brother.

“We are praying for the families of the killed and wounded,” said Eduardo Lazaney Rodriguez. “We are praying for strength for the family of Mr. Lopez Sr.,” the father of the man investigators said was the shooter.

Carlos Lazaney Rodriguez “was an energetic, fun-loving man, who enjoyed life to the fullest,” according to the obituary provided by Blount & Curry that provides far more details about his life than previously made public. “He was dedicated to leading and mentoring his many soldiers during his 19-year career. He loved his family and friends and would surprise them with candy and food.”

Lazaney Rodriguez liked to cook and “he indulged in the culinary arts and frequently showcased his meals to his friends,” according to the obituary.

His liked salsa dancing, playing multi-media games, collecting action figures, reading many genres of literature, and hosting various types of parties. His favorite action figure was Aqua Man, and he was once quoted saying, “I can't choose one (action figure), when I love them all. Besides, I don't have to choose”.

Lazaney Rodriguez “thoroughly enjoyed watching the Miami Heat, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Los Tiburones de Aguadilla sports teams,” according to the obituary. “His favorite word was “'Calor!”'” which is Spanish for Heat.

Lazaney Rodriguez's “character, compassion and enigmatic personality will forever endear him to his fellow soldiers. By paying the last full measure of devotion, [he] stands as a beacon of selfless service for us all. He will be eternally missed but never, never forgotten.”

Lazaney Rodriguez served 19 years, one month, eight days in the Army, according to the obituary.

He was born in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico and grew up in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, graduating from Superior Jose de Diego High School.

He is survived by his son, Alexander Colin Lazaney Molina, 10, of Toledo, Ohio; parents Eduardo Lazaney and Maria Rodriguez; sisters Maribel Lazaney, Norilda Ounnarath; and brother Eduardo Lazaney Rodriguez.

Lazaney Rodriguez was serving as Unit Supply Non-Commissioned Officer in the Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 21st Combat Support Hospital, 1st Medical Brigade unit.

On Jan. 12, 1994, Lazaney Rodriguez joined the Puerto Rico Army National Guard as Airborne Infantryman, From Dec. 15, 1998 to April 14, 1999, he was deployed to Kuwait and July 20, 2002 to Oct. 1, 2005 he served with the Recruiting Battalion (Cleveland, Ohio). From Apr. 19, 2007 to Apr. 21, 2008, he was deployed to Iraq, July 15, 2009 to July 15, 2010, deployed to Iraq again and in February 2012, assigned to 21st Combat Support Hospital as Supply Sergeant for Bravo Company.

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Ferguson attended McLane Middle School and Brandon High School before moving to Mulberry, where he graduated from Mulberry High School in 1993 and then joined the Army that July, according to Diane Lakner, who said her son, Chase Martin, was best friends with Ferguson.

Ferguson was remembered by those who knew him at both schools as quiet, hardworking and athletic. Lakner said that he came from a military family and always wanted to serve his country. His fiancee told WTSP-TV that he died holding a door closed, saving others in the process.

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The Patriot Guard Riders, formed in 2005 as a buffer against troop funeral protests by the Westboro Baptist Church, has more than 7,000 members in Florida, said Brown, a disabled Army veteran who served from 1979 to 1990.

Though the riders have sometimes done as many as four or five escorts in a day, he said they have never before performed two in one day from Tampa International Airport. Airport spokeswoman Emily Nipps said that her office can't recall having two garnering as much media attention as these will in one day.

Brown couldn't estimate how many riders will come out for the two escorts, but said that he has been getting a lot of calls, including one from a member in Melbourne. He expects even bigger numbers for Ferguson's escort to Bushnell on Saturday.

“When something like this happens, especially on weekends, people don't mind coming to town,” he said. “They even get hotel rooms so they can stay and show their respect.”

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