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Air Force Master Sgt. Patrick D. Magnani, 38, Martinez; dies of a gunshot wound

September 30, 2007|Teresa Watanabe | Times Staff Writer

He drove hours to see castles in England, checked out Oktoberfest in Germany, gamely tried a "seafood nightmare" dish of black shellfish in Italy and ventured to local bazaars in Afghanistan.

For Air Force Master Sgt. Patrick D. Magnani, the military was a way to serve his country and to indulge his adventuresome spirit and deep curiosity about the world.

Magnani's 18-year military career ended Sept. 4 when the native of Walnut Creek, Calif., died in a noncombat-related incident near Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, about 25 miles north of Kabul.

Magnani, 38, had deployed to Afghanistan in July as a biomedical equipment technician who repaired hospital equipment.

So far, his family has been told only that Magnani died of a gunshot wound, and it is pressing for further answers from military officials about the circumstances of his death, his sister, Katie Parks, said in a telephone interview from Omaha.

"They said the investigation would take five months," she said. "That's unacceptable."

Parks described her brother as a "perfect brother, perfect uncle and perfect soldier," who lovingly tended his family ties despite his global travels.

She said her brother took time to regularly visit her in Omaha and the rest of his family in Antioch and Martinez in the San Francisco Bay Area. He showered his niece and nephew with presents from around the world.

When his older brother Michael was left a quadriplegic after an auto accident in 1994, Magnani, who was based in Marysville, Calif., made it a point to visit him often. He took his brother to the beach with the family dog and helped install software on his computer, said their mother, Jeanne.

Yet when it was time to deploy, he did so without question.

"He said his duty as a soldier was to do whatever the government tells him to do," said his brother Christopher.

Growing up in a close-knit neighborhood of Pleasant Hill, Calif., Magnani was an avid athlete who set two high school track records and enjoyed baseball, bike riding and playing Frisbee. He attended Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill for a year. Then, in 1989, he abruptly announced at the dinner table that he had decided to join the Air Force, his mother said.

The decision stunned his mother and siblings. But he had discussed it with his father, Thomas, himself a Marine and Korean War veteran.

"He was flopping around in odd jobs," his father said. "But once he enlisted, he worked very hard to get where he was and enjoyed it a lot."

That dedication was evident to Lt. Col. Troy P. McGilvra, Magnani's commanding officer in the 31st Medical Support Squadron at Aviano Air Base, Italy.

"Pat was a true professional, a model airman and absolutely one of the best leaders in my squadron," McGilvra wrote in an e-mail to the family. "I was always impressed with his positive outlook, his enjoyment of Italian cuisine (we often compared notes on great local restaurants) and of course Belgian beer."

In e-mails posted to a memorial website for soldiers, friends and military colleagues remembered Magnani for his humor, constant smiles, love of history and thirst for knowledge.

In addition to Afghanistan, his service took him to Spain, Italy, Greenland, Germany, South Korea and Iraq.

"He was the kind of person who knew how to light up a room with his personality. . . . You just couldn't be in a bad mood in his presence," wrote Rob and Autumn Lombardi, who were stationed with him in Italy.

When Magnani deployed to Iraq in 2005, his brother Christopher admitted being "scared to death." But Magnani worked within Baghdad's Green Zone, setting up hospital facilities, and was relatively safe.

Magnani had planned to retire from the military in two years, after hitting his 20-year service mark.

"He joked that he wanted to marry an Italian girl and move to Italy," his sister said.

Magnani was posthumously awarded the Meritorious Service Medal and won several other awards, his mother said.

"I feel like I've lost my heart," she said.


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