By LENORE RUTHERFORD
Staff Sgt. David Scott Perry, who grew up in Sonora, was killed Sunday when a suspicious package he was inspecting exploded in Ba'quban, Iraq, about 45 miles northeast of Baghdad.
Perry, 36, was with the Army National Guard's 659th Military Police Force out of San Luis Obispo. He was the first member of the California National Guard killed in the conflict with Iraq.
He was also a correctional officer at Wasco State Prison north of Bakersfield, and the first correctional employee from California to be killed in action in Iraq. His wife, Denae Carraher Perry, also grew up in Tuolumne County.
Flags have been ordered to fly at half-staff at all state prisons, parole offices and conservation camps in California until his funeral. And badges of officers may be draped in mourning, said Kenny Calhoun, spokesman at Sierra Conservation Center near Copperopolis.
Perry, 36, was graduated from Sonora High School in 1984, then spent four years in the Army as an aircraft electrician stationed in Germany.
He joined the California National Guard when he returned home, then attended and graduated from the College of the Redwoods Police Academy.
He served in the Desert Storm conflict in the Persian Gulf in the early 1990s as part of a military police battalion. He was charged with care of prisoners of war.
Perry is the son of former Tuolumne County residents Jim and Sharon Perry, who now live in Oregon.
Perry's wife was not available for an interview yesterday or this morning.
Denae Perry and her three children were in the midst of moving to Tuolumne County to be near her parents, David and Phyllis Carraher, and her sister and brother-in-law, Michelle and Jason Fell.
The Perry's children are Alyssa, 6, Brandon, 4, and Sean, 1.
For now, they will stay with family members, said Ruth Ferguson, a family friend from Sonora.
In an earlier interview with the Bakersfield Californian newspaper, Denae Perry said she was moving back to the foothills to be closer to her family. "My children need them right now," she told the paper.
Denae Perry told a Bakersfield reporter that she and Perry met while both were working at the Sonora Burger King in the early 1990s. She was 17 at the time, while he was in his mid-20s and had just returned from Desert Storm.
Ferguson said Denae was notified Sunday that her husband was wounded. She and the children were at the U.S. Army National Guard Camp in San Luis Obispo attending a support group meeting for families of those serving in the Persian Gulf.
She was first told he was in critical condition and would be transferred to Germany, said Ferguson, but while she was making plans Monday to join him, she was told he had died Sunday.
Ferguson said David Perry was a military history buff.
"It's really tough," she said, "but Jason (Fell) and I decided this is the way David Scott would have wanted to go, fighting for his country."
Lt. Troy Ojeda, spokesman at Wasco State Prison, worked daily with Perry from May 2001 through Sept. 1, 2002, while both were in charge of prisoners.
"We are going to miss him," he said yesterday. "I wish we could bring him back. When you lose someone you have worked that closely with and relied on for safety, you lose some sense of your own security.
"So many thoughts run together. As a peace officer, he was very astute in his duties and careful to follow the rules, and he was the same with the military.
"His passions were for the military, the Department of Corrections and his family. That's what he talked about. He was quiet at work, but when you got to know him, he could joke around, and he had a big, wide, warming smile that made everybody comfortable."
Services are pending at Terzich and Wilson Funeral Home, and a memorial service is scheduled for Sept. 13 in San Luis Obispo. Details are pending.