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Utah Soldier Buried at Arlington
With a breeze off the Potomac River freshening the unseasonably warm noon, a group of 50 mourners solemnly watched as Army Staff Sgt. Nino Dugue Livaudais of Syracuse was buried Wednesday in Arlington National Cemetery.
The 23-year-old Army Airborne Ranger from the Davis County community was one of three soldiers killed April 3 at a coalition checkpoint near Haditha Dam in western Iraq when they approached a vehicle while attempting to help a screaming pregnant woman.
In an apparent suicide attack, a bomb in the vehicle detonated, killing the two female occupants along with Livaudais, 27-year-old Capt. Russell B. Rippetoe, of Arvada, Colo., and 21-year-old Spc. Ryan Long of Seaford, Del.
Livaudais was the fourth casualty of the Iraqi War to be buried in the nation's best-known military cemetery, preceded by Rippetoe, who was laid to rest last week at Arlington. Long also was buried Wednesday at a private cemetery in Wisconsin.
Livaudais' funeral, which was closed to news reporters at the request of his family, was attended by more than a dozen members of elite 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, based at Fort Benning in Georgia where Livaudais was stationed.
The rangers, who declined to discuss Livaudais' death out of respect for his family, wore their signature khaki berets and dress green uniforms as they joined a procession of more than 30 vehicles behind a hearse bearing the squad leader's body and a limousine carrying his family as it moved slowly through the manicured green swales that are the final resting place for 275,000 servicemen dating to the Civil War.
Livaudais, whose 24th birthday would have been April 30, was born in the Philippines and emigrated to the United States with his mother, Divina, who lives in Syracuse. His late father Howard, an Air Force veteran, was a survivor of the Bataan Death March.
Besides his mother, four brothers and two sisters, Livaudais is survived by his 21-year-old wife, Jackie, a native of Clinton, and their two sons, Destre, 5, and Carson, 2, who live in Fort Mitchell, Ala. Jackie Livaudais is pregnant with the couple's third child. According to statements released through Fort Benning, his family remembered Livaudais as a humble man who cared for the less fortunate.
"He was always looking out for others," Jackie Livaudais said. "He'd pile needy men into the back of his pickup and take them to McDonald's where he'd buy food for them."
As a matter of practice before leaving on a combat deployment, Army rangers write a letter to be forwarded to their families in case they die.
Fort Benning officials released a portion of Livaudais' last letter to his loved ones.
"Please know I died defending my family and my beliefs," he wrote. "I just hope in the event of my death, that a lot more of my comrades and fellow Americans' lives will be saved."
A memorial fund for Livaudais' children has been set up through America First Credit Union.