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Mother seeks truth in soldier son's death

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Posted: Monday, July 10, 2006 10:00 pm

Nadia McCaffrey isn't quitting her quest to find the truth surrounding the death of her son in Iraq.

Weeks after high-level U.S. Army officials visited her Tracy home June 22 - exactly two years after her son's death - to deliver the official Army version of who killed her son, McCaffrey said she still has many questions and will head to Iraq sometime to find the answers.

"I'm not giving up," McCaffrey said.

After reading the 300-page document littered with black marks blocking out the identities and vital information of those involved in the investigation, McCaffrey said she still has plenty of questions.

"Why were these guys out there on a patrol alone?" she asked. "Why did they leave my son on the ground to bleed to death? Why are they treating California's National Guard so poorly?"

McCaffrey said that she's spoken with Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-San Francisco, about her son's killing and reported to her that the state's National Guard was being treated like a second-class military unit in Iraq, having to camp out in tents and ride in vehicles reinforced with plywood shields. She's hoping Boxer will move to make sure the Guard is treated well and afforded top-notch fighting gear and living conditions.

But mostly, McCaffrey's mission is to find out what happened to her son, or what she calls the "whole truth."

On June 22, 2004, Sgt. Patrick McCaffrey and Lt. Army 1st Lt. Andre D. Tyson, 33, were shot and killed along a canal in Balad, Iraq. They were both with the Army National Guard's Alpha Company 579th Engineer Battalion from Petaluma.

Eyewitness accounts at the time suggested the men were ambushed by Iraqis being trained to become members of Iraq's new police force. But the Army denied those accounts and for two years would say nothing to Nadia McCaffrey and Tyson's family, who hounded the government until officials finally confirmed their negligence in the deaths.

The Army's version of things - and according to a soldier who was shot and wounded at the same time McCaffrey was killed - was that the men were probably ambushed by Iraqis posing as friendly forces and that it was a mistake to allow McCaffrey and the others to walk apart from the main force.

"They admitted to my face that it was a case of negligence," McCaffrey said.

That confession could lead to a lawsuit, McCaffrey said, but for now, she's hoping to face the man who possibly killed her son - a man Army officials will neither identify nor take into custody but, instead, have given over to the new Iraqi forces. The Iraqi government will supposedly try the man for the murder.

"I want to be there where my son was killed," she said. "I want to ask the man why he did what he did."

Contact reporter Phil Hayworth at phayworth@tracypress.com.

First published: Tuesday, July 11, 2006

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