Marin County soldier dies in Iraq

May 4, 2009 5:55:29 PM PDT
In Marin County, a family is mourning the 4,284th combat death in Iraq. Army Private Jake Velloza was killed in action over the weekend. He was a football star from a small family, in a small town.

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Private First Class Jake Velloza was 22-years-old and on his second tour of Iraq. He died on Saturday while on patrol in Mosul. He and his men had been in a room resting when a man dressed as a cleric opened the door.

"They opened the door a crack and started shooting. He shot two dead and three were wounded and one of them was our grandson," said Jake's grandfather Richard Velloza.

Jake Velloza graduated from Tomales High School in 2002.

He played running back on the football team and won a sectional state championship. He was a young man who was willful enough to know exactly what he wanted, even in a part of the country that leans decidedly left.

"He had in his mind since freshman year that he wanted to be in the military. He wanted to perform for his country and he was very patriotic. He was his destiny. That was it," said high school coach Leon Feliciano.

People who knew Jake describe him as one of those people who always thought of others first, sometimes, even to his own detriment. He was a big guy at 6'2.

Jake was also an only child. His parents flew back to Delaware to receive his remains.

"To lose a family member in a small family, it's really hard," said Velloza.

He was a grown man who will be remembered as still having the innocence of a child.

Memorial plans are still pending.

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