A DuPont resident and former Fort Lewis soldier was one of seven U.S. intelligence agents killed by a suicide bomber who infiltrated a base in Afghanistan last week, his widow said Tuesday.
Dane Clark Paresi, a retired Army master sergeant, died Dec. 30 in the blast at a forward military base in Khost province, on the restive Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
Paresi, 46, retired from 1st Special Forces Group at Fort Lewis in 2008, capping 27 years in the Army, and was working as a contractor alongside CIA employees when he was killed, according to family and friends.
Paresi’s family has made its home in DuPont since 2005. The Portland native is survived by his wife, MindyLou, and daughters Alexandra, 24, and Santina, 9, as well as his parents and five siblings.
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MindyLou Paresi was at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Tuesday after meeting the flag-draped coffins of her husband and the other fallen operatives. A small private ceremony Monday was attended by CIA Director Leon Panetta, other agency and national security officials, and friends and family.
“We are devastated, we are broken, but we are also very proud of him,” MindyLou Paresi said in a phone interview. “All of the agents are national heroes because they were there to do a job, a very large job. What it was I do not know exactly, but they were heroes fighting the war against terror.”
Official details of the suicide attack are sketchy, and the incident is under investigation. But counterterrorism officials in the Middle East said Tuesday that the bomber, a Jordanian, was a suspected double agent.
Jordan’s intelligence directorate, which also lost an operative in the attack, reportedly believed it had recruited the physician-turned-militant to help track down al-Qaida’s No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahri. The would-be informant came to the base Dec. 30 on urgent business, according to news service reports.
It was the deadliest single attack on U.S. intelligence personnel in decades.
MindyLou Paresi said she was told her husband was at the meeting inside the military compound and suspected something was wrong. When he approached, the informant detonated his explosives. She said her husband was right next to the bomber, the closest person to the blast.
“He saved many people, unfortunately seven of them did die,” she said, noting that others were wounded. “It could have been worse.”
She credited her husband’s employer, Xe Services (formerly Blackwater), for keeping her informed and taking care of the family’s emotional, financial and other needs over the past several days.
One of Dane Paresi’s closest friends was Sgt. Jeff Hall. They were different ages, different ranks and different specialties at Fort Lewis – Paresi was Special Forces, Hall was an MP with the 66th Military Police Company – but they both liked to fish, camp and smoke cigars on the front porch.
Their wives and kids knew each other before the fathers did.
“The first time I was officially introduced to him, I had just gotten back from Afghanistan,” recalled Hall, 38. “He drove up with a big smile on his face and parked in my front yard.”
Their wives were friends from working together at Chloe Clark Elementary School in DuPont. Their daughters were friends from school and skated together. Paresi made sure those bonds were protected.
“He was like a dad to my kids when I was deployed,” said Hall, who was reassigned to Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., in late 2008.
Paresi received multiple awards and medals, including several bronze service stars, for overseas tours in Mauritania, Philippines, Iraq, Bosnia, Rwanda, Southeast Asia, Kenya and Afghanistan.
Paresi’s death adds to the list of Northwesterners to die trying to secure Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001. A total of 61 service members from Washington state or assigned from military installations around the state have died there – 36 in the past year alone, mostly from Fort Lewis.
The explosion that killed Paresi took place at Forward Operating Base Chapman, named for Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Chapman of Puyallup.
He died on Jan. 4, 2002 – the war’s first casualty – and also belonged to 1st Special Forces Group.
Matt Misterek: 253-597-8472
The Associated Press contributed to this report.