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Soldier killed in Iraq returned to family

First-time media coverage of soldier's return to Calif. since 1991 ban
April 23, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
The remains of a local soldier who was killed in Iraq have been returned to Southern California. The soldier died in the deadliest single attack on Americans in more than a year.On a chilly somber morning, family, friends and fellow soldiers gathered to honor Private Second Class Bryce Gautier. A jet carried the remains of the 22-year-old home to Orange County.

"I wanted to come and just pay my final respects to him," said Christina Campisi, a friend of the deceased.

A formal ceremony was held at the airfield at the Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base to remember the young combat medic, one of five U.S. soldiers killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq on April 10.

"We're here to celebrate this young man, to give our respects to his family and let them know that they're not going to be forgotten," said Craig "Gunny" Donor, patriot guard rider.

Gautier joined the Army in 2007 with the goal of later becoming a nurse.

"He always wanted to help people, and I think that's where he, you know, his big heart and his caring heart towards anyone," said Campisi. "It didn't matter if like he wasn't getting along with you or anything, he was always there for you. He was the one person you could always count on."

The Rancho Alamitos High School graduate was voted "most dependable."

The honor ceremony allows the public to view the return of the young soldier's remains, an openness that hasn't happened here in nearly 20 years.

This is the first time here since the 1990s that the media have been allowed to cover the return of a soldier's body. Media coverage was banned in 1991, during the Persian Gulf War, citing privacy concerns.

President Obama lifted that ban recently. The Gautiers did not wish to speak on camera, but they invited the media to be here to honor the return of their loved one.

Escorted by the patriot guard riders, fellow soldiers lined the street to salute as the van carrying Gautier's remains left the base.

"I kind of wanted to have this be my last goodbye to him," said Campisi.

A private interment is scheduled for Friday in Cypress.


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