Covina Man 1st U.S. Casualty of Gulf Crisis

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A U.S. Air Force staff sergeant from Covina was hit by a truck and killed Sunday on a darkened aircraft runway in Saudi Arabia, becoming the first American casualty since President Bush ordered troops to the desert sheikdom, military authorities said.

John Campisi, 31, was the father of four, two girls and two boys, his grief-stricken father, Salvatore Campisi, said Sunday evening.

"It will be very hard on those children," the elder Campisi said.

"The main thing is that he was a wonderful father," said Campisi's mother, Margaret Campisi, her voice choked with emotion. "He was involved in everything with those kids--Scout leader, religious classes. He always made time for his family."

An aircraft maintenance technician who had been in the Air Force since he was 18, Campisi had been assigned to Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska.

"The Air Force was his life," Campisi's father said. "He was in electronics, but we never discussed what he did."

John Campisi grew up in West Covina and attended St. Christopher's, a Roman Catholic elementary school. He graduated from Edgewood High, a public school, where his favorite sports were baseball and wrestling, his father said. He was killed three weeks before his 32nd birthday, his father said.

Campisi is also survived by a sister and three brothers. One of the brothers is a naval chief petty officer and another recently enlisted in the Navy, Campisi's mother said.

"One of them just got back last week or he would have gone too," she said.

Pentagon sources said Campisi may have been wearing protective ear wear, impeding his ability to hear the oncoming vehicle.

"He left last Wednesday," his father said. "He told his wife he was going on temporary duty. That was the last anyone heard from him."

Campisi said his son had planned to spend 20 years in the service and then retire.

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