GREENPOINT — Sgt. Nicholas Aleman's mom recalled raising her son in Greenpoint, before he joined the Marine Corps.
"My memories have been beautiful here," said an emotional Maria Angelica Romero de Aleman Monday morning, near the family's former home on Manhattan Avenue and India Street.
Pointing to the store across the street, she reminisced: "This was the first fruit market I ever took him [to]."
But her world was turned upside down a year-and-a-half ago when her son was killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan at the age of 24.
"I knew already he was going to die when he went to fight, but it's beautiful to die for one's country," she said.
The block where Aleman grew up was renamed in the Marine's honor Monday, with local officials unveiling the sign: "Sgt. Nicholas Aleman Way."
"It's the best reward for his service," his mom said in Spanish of the sign. "My kid represents the heroes of all wars past. He gave his life for his country."
Aleman's sacrifice was so inspiring, in fact, that his fiancee, Elizabeth Rosenthal, decided to join the Marine Corps.
"She's in boot camp now, in Paris Island, South Carolina," Aleman's sister Stephanie Lugo, 27. "She just started in February."
Lugo, who was in the Army, traveled to Brooklyn from Kansas, where she recently finished being stationed. She and her mother, an El Salvadorian immigrant, flew to town for the ceremony, they said.
The Marine's father Joe Aleman, a Honduran immigrant, said there was no stopping his son from joining the Corps.
"He was my only son," said Jose Aleman, 54, "but when he decided to go I had to support him."
Nicholas Aleman attended John Dewey High School and joined the Marine Corps at age 17. He was deployed twice before attending Fordham University. Still, he stayed in the Reserves and then went to Afghanistan in October of 2010, where he was killed two months later.
"I think of him all the time," said Arthur Zgadzaj, 29, a pal who grew up with Aleman and still lives in Greenpoint. The two attended high school, went to the Marines and then began college together, said Zgadzaj.
"He was very smart and outspoken, he always had the facts to back up what he was saying."
Zgadzaj said Aleman's decision to go to Afghanistan was typical of the young man's dedication to helping others.
"He put the country ahead of him," said Zgadzaj, who helped organize the street naming. "It's nice to look up and to remind yourself of him."