Widow Remembers Second Native Utahn Killed in War

Widow Remembers Second Native Utahn Killed in War

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FORT MITCHELL, Ala. (AP) -- Jackie Livaudais has no regrets. She knew going into the marriage what life would be like as a Ranger wife.

Nino explained everything to her: Deployment to the world's hot spots could come at any time, and the stay could be lengthy. And there was always the possibility of being killed in combat.

To that end, Nino left nothing to chance. He painstakingly detailed what he wanted done if he didn't make it home from his most recent assignment. His major request: to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

That thought came to Jackie's mind when she saw the car carrying three Army officers pull up to her house last Thursday night.

"I knew what they were here for," she said, several days after being told that Staff Sgt. Nino D. Livaudais, 23, her husband of five years, the father of her children, her best friend since junior high, had been killed in a car bombing in Iraq.

One never expects to be told that their soldier husband is dead, she said, almost in a whisper. "But Ranger wives are always prepared for that possibility."

What she wasn't prepared for was the outpouring of support from her Ranger "family" and from the community at large.

There's food everywhere, courtesy not only from neighbors and fellow wives in the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, but from Red Lobster, the Olive Garden and other area restaurants.

"It's unbelievable," she said. "Food came from 17 local restaurants. Can you believe that?" She also received calls from folks from Hollywood Connection, Rich's, J.C. Penney and other area stores, all offering help for her and her kids.

"I knew I'd get support from the other wives ... but I truly never expected so much help from the business community."

Jackie spent most of Monday at Martin Army Community Hospital, ensuring that the baby she's been carrying for four months is OK. And it is. One of the neighbors cared for her children Destre, 5, and Carson, 2.

On her return, she was willing to talk about her life with Nino -- and what her life might be like without him.

They'd met in junior high, dated through high school and ran off and got married when Nino had built up a bit of leave time.

Jackie grew up in Clinton, an east bank town on the Great Salt Lake. Livaudais, he of Filipino and French stock, was from Syracuse -- another of the small towns that flank I-15 -- 23 miles west of Salt Lake City.

Jackie says the couple couldn't afford a big wedding, so they headed off to the mountains, to a town on the Wyoming border called Randolph.

"The county clerk married us," laughed Jackie, sitting in the comfort of her home off Alabama 315 in Fort Mitchell. "I think she was married to the sheriff. It was fun. We had two friends from home come with us and we stayed in these old ma and pa cabins."

Then the Livaudaises headed south to Fort Benning, the only post Nino had known since his enlistment in 1998.

"It's funny," said Jackie. "I'd lived in Utah all my life, and that whole time I hated snow. Coming down south was great for me."

From 1999, when Nino graduated from the Ranger course, the family lived as close to post as they could get.

She liked being a Ranger wife. She liked the other Ranger wives. "We're family," Jackie said.

Nino, who had achieved the rank of staff sergeant and was a squad leader, was often the life of the party at the couple's home.

"He was Mr. Backyard Barbecue," said Jackie. "He loved having his friends over, loved cooking for them. Not just Rangers, but some of his other soldier buddies, too."

Just before he was deployed to the Persian Gulf in March, Nino completed installing a hot tub out back.

"He was really looking forward to soaking in that tub." Nino was handy around the house. "He could fix anything, including his car and my truck."

Oh, yes, his car. "He's driving the same ol' Camry he had in high school," she laughed. "He loved that car."

Nino had matured greatly since his high school days. "I know he became the man of his house when his father died in 1995. He was a take-charge kind of guy."

Except with his mother.

"Oh, that," said Jackie. "The football thing. Nino had worked real hard one summer to buy this great looking football uniform. He told his mother that he wanted to play for the high school team that fall, that he could be a star on the team. But she wouldn't let him play. She didn't want him to get hurt."

Jackie's immediate plan is to bury her husband's remains.

And then she hopes to stay in this area.

"My family is here," she said, meaning the husbands and wives of the 75th Ranger Regiment. "I can't picture myself moving away."

She'll miss "date nights" with Nino -- dinner at El Vaquero and a movie. And trips to the park with Nino and the kids.

But she's now the "man" of the family, the one who must make the decisions. She says she had quite a good tutor.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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