HIALEAH GARDENS, Fla. – For decades, Félix Rodríguez has been determined to leave as much evidence behind about the many sacrifices fighters made in their attempts to have a free and Democratic Cuba.
The 77-year-old former Central Intelligence Agency operative, also known as Max Gomez, co-founded the Bay of Pigs Museum and Library in Miami's Little Havana. He is also the co-founder of the new Brigade 2506 museum in Hialeah Gardens.
With the help of Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales and his Defense Minister Gen. Luis Miguel Ralda, a Fuerza Aérea Guatemalteca's Douglas B-26 Invader that was at Guatemala City's La Aurora Airport is now in Hialeah Gardens.
"It's unbelievable to be able to have that," Rodríguez said.
The plane was disassembled for the delivery to Miami-Dade County. It must be assembled to be on exhibit at the city's new botanical garden and museum to honor the 1,414 men who participated in the failed Bay of Pigs invasion.
The city received $3.2 million from the state to turn a former landfill into a botanical garden, and Rodríguez worked to get the approval needed from federal authorities to be able to bring the plane that Guatemala donated to the city.
Rodríguez remembers when the CIA chose the Douglas B-26 Invader because Castro's Air Force had B-26C bombers. Two B-26 bombers were shot down during the April 17-19, 1961 invasion. Four CIA pilots -- Pete Ray, Leo Baker, Riley Shamburger and Wade Gray -- were killed.
Rodríguez, who was a CIA pilot during the Vietnam War and is most known for participating in the operation resulting in the execution of Ernesto "El Che" Guevara in Bolivia, will be thinking about them on Memorial Day.
"I can now rest in peace," Rodríguez said. "That our history will not be forgotten."
The city's Park and Recreation Department has yet to announce when the museum will open at the Westland Gardens Park at 13501 NW 107 Avenue.
Map of new museum's site: