PEMBROKE PINES (CBSMiami) — An American soldier who died fighting in Afghanistan and was immortalized in an Academy Award-nominated documentary is being honored by the city that he once called home.
U.S. Army Private First Class Juan Sebastián “Doc” Restrepo was killed in 2007 during an ambush attack by Taliban fighters in the Korengal Valley of eastern Afghanistan, just three months into his first tour of duty.
In memory of the 20-year-old medic, his platoon, who called themselves the Spartans, dubbed the outpost they were stationed at “OP Restrepo.” In 2010, the Oscar-nominated documentary Restrepo was released chronicling the platoon’s 15-month tour fighting in the valley, negotiating with locals, and bonding as brothers.
The film opens by saying “It was considered one of the most dangerous postings in the U.S. Military.” The next 93 minutes back that claim up pretty well.
Friday morning, the City of Pembroke Pines dedicated a street after the fallen soldier during an unveiling ceremony open to the public. Northwest 129th Avenue, running from Pines Blvd to Taft Street, will now be known as “Pfc. Juan Sebastian Restrepo Avenue.”
“Juan made the ultimate sacrifice for his country while fighting in Eastern Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. Through the renaming of this street the City of Pembroke Pines honors the life of this brave young Pembroke Pines resident, who played ball on our fields, graduated from Flanagan High School and embraced the American way of life,” said Mayor Frank C. Ortis.
A presentation of colors by the United States Army Color Guard and a dedication ceremony were held at the Pembroke Pines Aquatic Center at 1361 N.W. 129th Avenue, accompanied by family, friends and fellow soldiers.
For those closest to him, still not enough time has passed.
“I avoid all the time to speak about my son because I cannot handle it,” his mother, Marcelo Pardo, admitted. “It’s gonna be 10 years already, but it’s so painful.”
Just before the young hero enlisted in the military, he saw the birth of his now-9-year-old daughter, Ariana. She flew in from Colombia for the ceremony.
The decision to rename the street was first introduced by Pembroke Pines Police Detective Christina Cruz, who approached Mayor Ortis about creating a permanent way to honor the city resident’s brave service in the U.S. military.
“I said, ‘we have to do something for him,” Cruz recalled. “In that time, I started to use my detective skills to locate any family that I could. It was very difficult in the beginning but I did end up locating his mom.”
That determination now gives a grieving family an everlasting symbol of a young man’s life and legacy.
“It’s incredible. It’s like a dream to me,” said his mother. “When he was 12 years old he told me, ‘mami, I wanna be famous.’ But he used to play the guitar so we thought he would be famous that way. And now it’s the street. So, it’s wonderful. It’s really wonderful because I feel he completed what he wanted to do in his life.”
Pfc. Restrepo joined the army out of the desire to be a doctor.