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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Staff Sgt. Nino Livaudais was no stranger to combat; he was sent twice to Afghanistan, where he helped the Army Rangers search for Osama bin Laden. Last month he was secretly deployed for the war in Iraq, his third combat tour in two years.
"He had a purpose. He was doing his part as an American. I knew I never was going to get him behind a desk," his wife, Jackie Livaudais, said Sunday. "He wanted to make the world better and get the bad guys."
Livaudais, 23, was among three rangers killed Thursday when a car exploded at a U.S. checkpoint northwest of Baghdad. They were from the 3rd Battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment, based at Fort Benning, Ga.
Livaudais was the third Utah native killed in action in Iraq.
Uniformed Army officers delivered the news to Jackie Livaudais, the mother of two boys with a third child on the way.
"I said, `How they'd get him?"' she recounted, never imagining her husband would have been caught in harm's way coming to the aid of a pregnant woman. The woman jumped from the car screaming in fear as she and the vehicle blew up in an apparent suicide attack.
"What man wouldn't run to that?" said Jackie Livaudais, who with her husband grew up in northern Utah.
When the two were dating, she said, Nino Livaudais told her and their friends he wanted to become a ranger. They thought he meant forest ranger. It took time before they realized he meant an Army ranger.
His father died many years ago of natural causes, but Livaudais' mother, who was born and raised in Philippines, lives in Ohio after moving there from Utah.
He graduated in 1997 from Washington High School, an alternative school in Ogden, joined the Army a year later, then became a ranger in 1999. He planned to make the military a career.
Nino Livaudais received secret orders to go to South Korea when they suddenly were changed to Iraq, said Chris Hatch, a fellow classmate who considers Livaudais "like my brother."
"He believed in his country very much," Hatch said. "He was one of the most patriotic young people I had ever known. He always was politically aware of what was going on in the world, and he very much supported and believed in what he was doing.
"He wanted to be in the action. He yearned for something, something dangerous," Hatch said.
Livaudais was based out of Fort Benning. Ga., but lived with his wife and children at nearby Fort Mitchell, about five miles away in Alabama. His wife said she would never know when he would be deployed until he left, and didn't know where until he returned.
"It is an elite unit," she said. "They go when they go."
He was sent under cover of secrecy to Iraq around March 13.
Livaudais would have turned 24 on April 30.
Also Thursday, Sgt. 1st Class Randall S. Rehn, a former commander of the South Salt Lake Recruiting Station, died in fighting near Saddam International Airport.
Rehn, whose hometown was Longmont, Colo., was a 16-year Army veteran. He worked at the recruiting station from September 1999 to June of 2002, signing up students at Granite High School.
He had been stationed at Fort Sill, Okla., and lived near the base with his wife and 7-month-old daughter, said Joe Rehn, his brother.
"He was over there for the right reasons -- to fight terrorism and make it a safer place for people to live in," Joe Rehn said.
Randall Rehn, who joined the Army in 1987, was in an artillery unit attached to the Army's 3rd Infantry Division.
Utah's first soldier killed in the war was Marine reservist and Salt Lake police officer James W. Cawley, 41, of Layton. He died March 29 during a firefight near Nasiriyah, Iraq.
Cawley, a staff sergeant with Company F of the 2nd Battalion 23rd Regiment Marines, was killed when he was struck by a coalition forces' Humvee as he sought a secure position out of the line of enemy fire. Cawley served in the police department's gang unit and SWAT team.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)