War death touches Guard unit
A battalion assigned to the 29th Brigade loses a soldier in Iraq
Another California soldier whose unit is affiliated with the Hawaii Army National Guard's 29th Brigade Combat Team was killed in Baghdad on Monday by a car bomb.
Staff Sgt. Jerry L. Bonifacio Jr., 28, of Vacaville, Calif., died when a car bomb detonated near his checkpoint for the Green Zone. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry Regiment, Dublin, Calif. The unit is one of three battalions assigned to the 29th Brigade.
The Vacaville Reporter said Bonifacio had three months remaining on his deployment in Iraq.
The newspaper said Bonifacio planned to marry his sweetheart, Michelle Baptiste, whom he had met at a welcome home and birthday celebration four years ago while on leave from the Army in Fort Campbell, Ky.
Friends described the soldier as an easygoing person who knew how to take care of himself, who trusted friends completely, who collected comic books, and who loved 1980s heavy metal music.
He is survived by his parents, "Big" Jerry and Anna Bonifacio from Vacaville; a younger sister, Esther, and younger brother, John.
"Everyone's still kind of in shock," said family friend Angela Garcia. "We start crying and then we stop. It's hard to believe. He was going to be out in three months."
His mother recalled her oldest son working door-to-door at newspaper sales as a youth and washing dishes in his grandparents' restaurant, the Downtown Cafe in Vacaville.
When friends would be in a tight spot and need a little money, they could often count on Bonifacio, whose childhood nickname was "Beaver" because he looked a little like Jerry Mathers of "Leave it to Beaver." The "Beaver" would lend them his bank card and let them take what they needed, Baptiste said.
Bonifacio was the sixth California soldier from the 1st Battalion to die in Iraq since the unit arrived there in March with other elements of the 29th Brigade.
Two other members from the 29th Brigade have also died in combat:
» Sgt. Deyson K. Cariaga, 20, of Honolulu, was killed in Al Hammadi on July 5 when the Humvee in which he was riding struck a land mine. Cariaga was assigned to the Army National Guard's 229th Military Intelligence Company, 29th Separate Infantry Brigade.
» Staff Sgt. Frank Tiai, 45, of Pago Pago, American Samoa, was on patrol in Balad on July 17 when a homemade bomb exploded near his Humvee. He was a member of Charlie Company, 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry.