Sgt. Anthony A. Paci was a dedicated soldier, a veteran of two wars and a lover of fast cars.
But, friends said, above all else Paci was proud to be the father of three children and shared his dreams of a big family.
“He was always happy when he was talking about his children,” said Paci’s friend, Spc. Eric Tapia. “Even though Sgt. Paci just had a third child in November, he always spoke of having one more so the Paci family could be complete.”
Then the war in Afghanistan intervened.
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Paci, a 30-year-old Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier, died March 4 in a vehicle rollover in Gereshk, Helmand province. The Rockville, Md., native was serving with the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.
Paci’s family told The Washington Post he was riding in a hatch of a Stryker when he yelled for his driver to swerve to avoid hitting an oncoming passenger car.
The vehicle rolled, killing Paci and handing his unit – the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment – its 22nd fatality of the war.
Friends and comrades gathered Wednesday at Lewis-McChord to honor Paci, who is survived by his wife, Erica, and his children: 21/2-year-old Judah, 11/2-year-old Tallulah and 3-month-old Mila.
He met his wife on the Internet while he was deployed to Iraq in 2005-06 and told friends that leaving his family behind for his second combat tour was difficult.
His commander, Lt. Col. Jonathan Neumann, said during another memorial service Friday in Afghanistan that Paci exemplified a professional soldier – “a professional who swore an oath to protect his nation during a time of war, and backed up that declaration with combat service not once, but in two theaters of this conflict against global terrorism.”
Chaplain Capt. Ronaldo Silva quoted Wednesday from the Book of Ecclesiastes, which contains one of the most recognized passages of the Old Testament: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”
Paci’s father, Leo Paci, approached the microphone after the service ended and delivered an impromptu message to the hundreds gathered at the chapel – a rare event at on-base memorial services.
He, too, echoed the Bible verse: “I was riding with my son Marco today and I told him, ‘There are always two things: the good and the bad. A time to cry, a time to laugh.’”
“So,” Leo Paci continued after a pause, “God is with us. And God bless you.”