TRACY - The body of U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. Patrick McCaffrey has returned home. The 34-year-old Tracy soldier was killed one week ago in an ambush while on patrol in Balad, Iraq.
His body arrived at Sacramento International Airport in the first hours of Monday morning. He was a specialist in the Petaluma-based Alpha Company of the 579th Engineering Battalion in Santa Rosa, which promoted him to the rank of sergeant after his death.
McCaffrey's family said he will be awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart at Thursday's funeral service at Fry Memorial Chapel at 10:30 a.m.
Burial will be Friday in a private ceremony in Oceanside, a city near his wife's hometown that was special to the couple.
McCaffrey's combat unit, the 81st Brigade, held a memorial service Monday for him and Lt. Andre Tyson, a Riverside man who was also killed in the ambush.
Spc. Scott Aponte, a member of McCaffrey's battalion, said the field memorial included a slideshow with photos of the men and fond words from their commanders.
According to Aponte's account, Alpha Company commander Capt. William Turner said McCaffrey was a natural leader, even though he had been with the company less than three years. McCaffrey joined the National Guard immediately after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the United States in 2001.
"He looked after everyone in the company," Turner said. "His leadership had nothing but great things to say about him."
McCaffrey's body arrived in Sacramento around midnight, where his family and military officials held a brief press conference. His 27-year-old wife did not speak, and officials asked the media not to photograph her.
McCaffrey's mother, Nadia, also of Tracy, spoke out for peace during the conference. In a brief interview Monday, she stressed that she did not mean to make any political or policy statement.
"My goal is to pass on Patrick's message, why and how he died. Try to talk about this and stop it," she said.
Her message, she said, was about peace, not policy.
"Enough war," she said.
Family and friends say Patrick McCaffrey signed up with the National Guard because he wanted to do his part to help defend the country against terrorism after Sept. 11. He was an engineer by training who was deployed to Iraq for combat in March.
Last week, his wife of nearly four years, Silvia, said she was proud of her husband and bereft at the loss.
McCaffrey had two children, 2-year-old Janessa, and 9-year-old Patrick Jr., who lives with McCaffrey's first wife in the Silicon Valley.
McCaffrey was scheduled to return home to Tracy for a visit in August, two weeks after Janessa's third birthday. The family was planning a celebration for them both.
Co-workers at the auto body shop McCaffrey managed for the past 10 years established a college fund for the two children at the Citibank West branch in Palo Alto.
Akins Collision Repair in Palo Alto has become something of a shrine to the slain soldier, with customers, vendors and local well-wishers stopping by to express their condolences.