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Utah held a place in heart of fallen GI
The Sting tunes he belted out to serenade her have replayed constantly in Rikka Jacobsen's mind since the soldiers came to her door with the news that her husband had been killed in Iraq.
Capt. Bill Jacobsen, 31, was the highest-ranking soldier killed Dec. 21 when a suicide bomber slipped into the mess tent at Forward Operating Base Marez in Mosul. Twenty-two people died.
The knock on Rikka Jacobsen's door came hours later near his stateside base in Fort Lewis, Wash., on the day of their ninth wedding anniversary.
Bill Jacobsen, a military brat and career officer, did not have a hometown, but two Utah cities ranked high: Provo, where he attended Brigham Young University, and Salt Lake City, where he was married.
He listed his place of residence as Charlotte, N.C., where his parents and four of his five younger siblings live. His widow will return there to raise their sons Bill, 8, Sedric, 6, and Yonah, 5, and daughter Avalon, 2, to be near his family.
In October, there had been a slight delay before the company of 184 soldiers Jacobsen commanded had shipped out, giving him and his wife time to attend their last Sting concert together.
"I can't remember the words but I can hear him singing the tune," she said of her husband. "And I can still feel his presence."
Rikka Jacobsen, a native of Finland, had been a foreign-exchange student at Alta High School in Sandy, staying with the missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who had converted her parents. Earlier, her future husband was living in Orem while his father taught Reserve Officers' Training Corps classes at BYU.
The two first met in 1993 in Dallas, where both were serving an LDS mission. The 6-foot-5 Jacobsen was her mission district leader. After he completed his mission, they stayed in touch. In the fall of 1995 they met again in Provo, where they were attending BYU. Three months later they were married.
"We sometimes talked about what we would have done differently," she said. "The only thing we could think of was that we should have married sooner."
The couple lived in Utah County until 1998, when he graduated with a degree in management. His father, a retired lieutenant colonel, commissioned him.
"He was committed to the Army," said Bill Jacobsen Sr. "He was also committed to going to Iraq. He knew we are a blessed nation and a blessed people. We have a responsibility to provide that same opportunity to our brothers and sisters around the world."
The young couple lived at military bases in Georgia and Kentucky before the transfer to Fort Lewis where the nation's second elite high-tech Stryker brigade was being formed.
Strykers are 19-ton eight-wheeled armored families of 10 vehicles with interchangeable parts and a common chassis. They are the future Army, designed for rapid deployment in a self-contained combat-ready configuration that can maneuver in close, urban terrain.
Jacobsen was a company commander assigned to the 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, dubbed the Stryker Brigade Combat Team.
His brigade relieved the first fully formed Stryker team, which returned to Fort Lewis in the fall after suffering 31 deaths. Jacobsen's greatest concern as Alpha Company commander was bringing all his soldiers home alive, said his father, a Vietnam veteran.
Five other soldiers in Jacobsen's brigade died in the bomber attack that killed 14 U.S. troops, making it the single deadliest attack on a U.S. base in Iraq.
Days before Jacobsen was killed, he managed to borrow a Web camera so that his wife and four children could interact with him, live from their computer. The children waved, his wife remembered. He waved back. And in the end, he reached out, as did she, to touch fingers on her computer screen.
On Christmas morning, tucked under the tree were the unopened gifts he had sent home. He was buried in North Carolina on New Year's Day.
"I truly believe in eternal families," said Rikka Jacobsen. "It was a comfort when someone said that commanders are needed in God's army, too. My goal is that our children will know him. He's our hero. I want him always to be our hero."