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Bryce E. Gauthier
Service  Army (Pfc)
Date Of Birth  February 2, 1987
KIA  April 10, 2009 (Iraq)
Cemetery  Riverside National Cemetery
City & State  Riverside, CA
Grave Site  Section 63D Site 721A

LOS ALAMITOS – Hundreds of soldiers stood in sharp salute today while uniformed escorts slowly approached the family waiting to honor a local hero and say their final goodbyes.
Instead of wrapping their arms around the man with the quick smile and endearing sense of humor, the family tearfully accepted a small wooden box and a tightly folded American flag.
Inside the box laid the ashes of Pvt. 2nd Class Bryce Gautier, 22, who was killed in a bomb blast April 10 in Mosul, Iraq.
The military transported Gautier from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to the Los Alamitos airfield where his remains were escorted to the Riverside National Cemetery.
Gautier will be buried Friday in a private ceremony.
This was the first time in Orange County in nearly 20 years the public and media were invited to welcome home a hero killed in action.
President George H.W. Bush in 1991 banned news coverage of the transport of soldiers’ bodies, citing privacy as the reason.
President Barack Obama lifted the ban in March, leaving the decision up to the families. Gautier’s family told base officials they wanted a public tribute. Freedom of the press was a core American value Gautier died to protect, Gautier’s brother, Evan Gautier, told base officials.
As the passenger planed touched down on the tarmac, silence fell among the more than 250 soldiers waiting to welcome their fallen brother home. Standing at attention, they raised their right arms in sharp salute.
Nearly 50 Patriot Guard Riders also lifted a hand to their brows. The motorcycle-riding veterans attend the homecoming of soldiers who have died to honor their service and offer an escort to their final resting place.
“We’re going to be here to let (the family) know their son’s sacrifice was not in vain,” said Patriot Guard Rider Craig “Gunny” Donor. “We will be there to protect the family and pay our honors.”
Gautier’s family and friends, and others from the community, solemnly placed their hands over their hearts as two soldiers dressed in formal attire slowly marched Gautier’s remains in a distinguished procession toward the family.
As they handed over the box, family members cried and tightly hugged the soldiers. They were not quick to let go of the uniformed escorts.
“I wanted to come out and show respect for him,” said Christina Campisi, a high school friend of Gautier. “This is the first service that I’ve actually known someone myself.”
Campisi talked of Gautier’s loving demeanor and his willingness to help others, her words occasionally interrupted by an attempt to fight tears.
“He was really a sweetheart,” she said
Gautier entered the Army in 2007 and wrote on his MySpace page that he enlisted because he was ready to grow up and commit to something that would give his life meaning and make his family proud.
“He was willing to make that sacrifice,” Evan Gautier said. “We never thought, of course…we never thought it would come to this.”
Bryce Gautier and four other U.S. soldiers were killed when a suicide bomber detonated a truck filled with an estimated ton of explosives near a police station. Two Iraqi police officers were also killed and 62 people were injured, including a U.S. soldier.
Gautier was a combat medic who told his family that his job was to listen for calls for help to come over the radio and go. He also said he would go on patrols, but didn’t give his family specific details.
He had been in Iraq since January and had received the National Defense Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.
Gautier graduated from Rancho Alamitos High School in Garden Grove in 2005, where he was voted “Most Dependable” and was captain of the water polo team.
He had dreams of becoming a nurse, fitting for the man friends said was always quick to help without question.
In addition to his brother, Gautier is survived by his mother, Heidi Frankel; his sister-in-law, Nicole Gautier; and a close family friend, Karen Cox
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