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State Prison Officer Killed in Iraq

A Bakersfield man in Army National Guard was killed when a package he was inspecting exploded, authorities said.

August 13, 2003|Jose Cardenas | Times Staff Writer

A California state correctional officer serving in Iraq with the Army National Guard was killed when a package he was inspecting exploded, authorities said Tuesday.

Staff Sgt. David Perry, 36, of Bakersfield was the first California member of the National Guard killed on duty since Sept. 11, 2001, said Capt. Denise Varner.

"I think everyone in the guard right now is devastated," Varner said. "We don't want to lose any one of them, but to lose one of his caliber is devastating."

Perry was assigned to the 649th Military Police Company based in San Luis Obispo, Varner said.

Perry was deployed to Iraq in January, and his job was to provide security in Baqubah, about 45 miles northeast of Baghdad.

The explosion occurred Sunday outside the town's police station, authorities said.

Perry was born in Oroville, Calif., and raised in Sonora, said Sgt. 1st Class Cari Beetham, who served with him in the military police unit.

He joined the Army in 1983 and the National Guard in 1990. In the course of his career, Perry responded to the Los Angeles riots and participated in Operation Desert Storm, Varner said. Through his career, he received various medals of commendation.

Beetham described Perry as an optimist.

For example, she recalled a recent letter in which Perry described the hot weather and the lack of running water in Iraq, and then added: "But it could be worse."

There was, she said, "always some way he was going to make it better."

Perry moved to Bakersfield about 10 years ago.

Three years later, he began working as a correctional officer at Wasco State Prison, according to Correctional Lt. Troy Ojeda.

On Tuesday, flags at correctional facilities throughout the state flew at half-staff and correctional officers wore black ribbons over the numbers on their badges.

"If you want to define the word professional, David would be that person," said Ojeda, who supervised Perry.

"He did his all as a correctional officer, and he definitely gave his all with his family."

Ojeda said that Perry would have turned 37 on Sunday. Some of his colleagues at the prison flocked to be with his wife, Denae, and the couple's three children: Alyssa, 6; Brandon, 4; and Sean, 1.

"She's alone with three babies, and it's going to be a tough life ahead of her," Beetham said.

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