By LENORE RUTHERFORD
Stories were told Saturday of a military hero, a devoted family man and a good friend and coworker, as people remembered former Sonoran Staff Sgt. David Scott Perry.
Perry died Aug. 11 in Ba'quban, Iraq, when a suspicious package he was inspecting exploded. He was 36.
More than 100 people crowded into Terzich and Wilson Funeral Home for the service, which ended outside with a 21-gun salute and the playing of taps by fellow California Department of Corrections employees.
"This is the toughest thing we have ever had to go through," said Perry's father, former Sonoran Jim Perry, before the service. He carried his 1-year-old grandson, Sean, tightly in his arms.
"You can't imagine what it's like for parents to lose a child," he said. "At least I couldn't until now."
David Scott Perry is survived by Sean and two other children, Alyssa, 6, and Brandon, 4. All three children live in Bakersfield with Perry's widow, Denae, in a home the family bought in 1995.
All were present at Saturday's service.
Perry attended Columbia Elementary School and graduated from Sonora High School in 1984. The Perrys met while both were working at Burger King in Sonora in the early 1990s. They were married in 1993.
In addition to being in the National Guard, Perry was a correctional officer at Wasco State Prison north of Bakersfield and the first correctional employee from California to be killed in action in Iraq.
The color guard of 18 correctional employees at Saturday's memorial service included six people who worked with Perry, several of whom were in tears during the service.
One of Perry's fellow officers, Steve Manion, said he had spoken to Perry just before he left for Iraq in January.
"He was a good friend and coworker," Manion said. "He loved the military, and he loved his job in the military. That's what he wanted to do."
During the service Manion told in a broken voice of first hearing a soldier had been killed on Aug. 11: "Don't let it be Perry. Oh, please don't let it be Perry," he remembered saying to himself.