Dozens of family, friends and neighbors congregated Sunday at the home of Bob and Susan Velloza in Inverness to mourn the couple's only child, who was 22 years old.
Richard Velloza, who lives in Point Reyes Station, said notification of his grandson's death was confirmed when an Army major from Travis Air Force Base showed up at Bob and Susan's home at 6 a.m. Sunday.
"Bob said he wanted to know exactly what happened, and the major said he'd been shot in the neck and died quickly," Richard Velloza said.
Jake Velloza's parents were on their way to San Francisco International Airport on Sunday night to catch a flight to Delaware, where they were to be present at Dover Air Force Base when their son's body was flown home.
The ominous knock on the door came two hours after a phone call from the girlfriend or wife of another soldier who was on the same patrol in Mosul, Richard Velloza said. That soldier and Jake Velloza had an agreement that they'd call her as soon as they returned from a patrol, but the call had not come by the expected time.
Richard Velloza said people flocked to the family home in Inverness on Sunday. "There must've been 50 to 100 people who came in," he said. "They were stopping by all day long. Everybody was teary. Everybody said, 'Let me know what I can do,' but that's really impossible. At a time like that, there's really nothing anybody can do."
Jake Velloza was a football and baseball standout at Tomales High, where Leon Feliciano served as his football coach. Feliciano remembers Velloza playing wingback, defensive back, kick returner and kicker on a team that won the 2002 North Coast Section Class B championship with an 8-4 record.
"I think he knew from the first day he got into high school that he was going into the military," Feliciano said. "We talked about college, but he said, 'No, Coach, I want to be a Ranger doing special ops.' He was set on his goals. He was one of those young men who knew what he wanted to do and did it. Service to his country is what appealed to him."
Jake Velloza worked briefly reading meters for the North Marin Water District in Novato - for which his grandfather worked for 21 years -Êbefore he joined the Army in 2006, Richard Velloza said. He completed his first overseas tour, mostly in Baghdad, and then spent about six months training in Texas. Earlier this year, then re-upped for a second tour after a short break at home in Marin.
Caleb Davis, a neighbor who served three tours in the Army and finished his commitment in February, attended Tomales High with Jake Velloza and they often talked as teens about serving their country.
"Everybody found out within a few hours," Davis said of the Inverness response. "People found out almost immediately because the community is so small. Obviously it's shocking. Everybody wants to believe nothing like this would ever happen, but that's just not reality."
About 225 miles up the Tigris River from Baghdad, Mosul is one of the last bases for Sunni insurgents and could be among the lingering urban battlegrounds for U.S. forces as they prepare to move out of cities by June 30.
According to Associated Press reports, an Iraqi soldier opened fire on a U.S. military team Saturday, killing two American soldiers and wounding three, the U.S. military said, in an attack that has sharpened worries about the extent of militant infiltration in Iraq's security forces.
Iraqi officials described the attacker - who was killed in the gunbattle - as a soldier who also served as a Sunni Muslim preacher for his unit near Mosul, which is one of the last urban strongholds for Sunni insurgents.
Attackers in Iraq have sometimes disguised themselves in uniforms to bypass security checks. On April 20, a suicide bomber wearing an Iraqi army uniform attacked a U.S. military delegation visiting the mayor in Baqouba northeast of Baghdad, killing three Iraqi civilians and wounding at least eight American soldiers.
Contact Brent Ainsworth via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Associated Press contributed to this report.