Arnold Duplantier, 50, Sacramento
"It took me four years to come back to life after my son died," said the soft-spoken Duplantier, whose only child was killed while patrolling the streets of Baghdad in June 2005.
Arnold Duplantier II, who had recently turned 27, was cut down by a sniper's bullet, according to news reports. He was the first California National Guardsman from Sacramento to die in the war on terror in Iraq.
"When 9/11 happened, my son talked about how everything was changing and he was going to get deployed overseas," his father recalled. In 2003 he was sent to Kuwait, "which was the warmup for Iraq."
"He loved being a soldier. He was passionate about it, and he was really good at it," winning an award for his skills as a combat infantryman.
But his texts from Iraq were disturbing, his father said. "Mortars just came within 400 yards of me," Arnold II wrote one day. On another, "Dad, I picked up body parts for eight hours today."
"I didn't know exactly where he was or what he was doing," Duplantier said, "but it was clear that things were getting more and more dangerous."
He was killed just a few hours after sending a greeting to his wife, Tanya. The couple's daughter, Isabel, was 5 years old at the time.
"For more than three years after he died, I did nothing but work on my house," Duplantier said. "I poured myself into it."
In 2007, he drove from California to Virginia, visiting the various Army bases where his son had trained. He discovered a memorial with his son's name on it at Fort Stewart, Ga., and a tree fitted with a plaque engraved with his name in Fort Bliss in Texas. He visited Fort Polk in Louisiana and Fort Benning in Georgia.
"I met soldiers who remembered my son," he said. "I spent about a month on the road, and when I finished I felt a strong connection to the places where he had spent time.
"When I got back home I was ready to move on with my life."
Duplantier, who works as an administrative assistant at UC Davis Medical Center, expects to feel somber on this anniversary.
"It will be hard for me, because it represents the reason why my son was deployed and why he fell," Duplantier said. He may visit Mount Vernon cemetery in Fair Oaks, where Arnold II is buried, or a memorial in his name in Auburn.
"My life has changed forever," Duplantier said, "but my son will always be with me."