The mother of Army Sgt. 1st Class Jesse Albrecht says she got a call from the military last Thursday, telling her Jesse was killed when a roadside bomb detonated near his vehicle in Iskandariya, Iraq.
His siblings and their young children have gathered in their mother's rural Wisconsin home to support each other. Denise Albrecht says she's dealing with the loss of her son as best as she can.
"It's up and down. It depends on the time and the moment. The evenings are usually the worst. Like now -- this is my day face. But you'll never see my night face. because it's private," said Albrecht. "I think right now we're -- I wouldn't say so much in shock, but we're just floating along."
The family remembers Jesse Albrecht, 31, as a joker and a strong leader. Albrecht's sister, Kathy Sylte, says he got married last July and had just finished building his dream home with his new bride in Alaska.
Albrecht and his wife, Crystal, spent only three weeks living in the home before he was shipped off to Iraq. Sylte says her brother's life centered on his wife and his 11-year old daughter from his first marriage, Salena.
"Being in the military, he couldn't have her on a full-time basis -- but every free moment was with her," said Sylte.
“He was proud to be in the service. He took it serious. It was his job. It was his profession.”Denise Albrecht, mother
Denise Albrecht says her son was also devoted to his two dogs. She adopted them two years ago, during his last visit to Wisconsin.
Jesse Albrecht knew he would soon be deployed overseas and he wanted his mother and sister to take care of the black curly-haired cockapoos. Denise Albrecht says the dogs are sensing the sadness.
"When Pacer went to bed last night he took a stuffed animal with him," said Albrecht. "And he slept with that animal all night. It's really strange, but I think they know."
Denise Albrecht says the military and the Baldwin community have been very supportive. She's been warned that she'll need trucks to haul all the flowers to Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Glenwood City for Saturday's funeral.
Albrecht says she's especially comforted by a letter she received from one of the soldiers serving with her son.
"I know it is hard for me to say that I will miss him as much as you all will. But it is true. There is not a night since he died that I have slept or not cast tears for him," the letter said.
Jesse Albrecht was born in River Falls and raised in Hager City, Wisconsin. He graduated from Prescott High School in 1994. He enlisted as a part-time reservist in 1993 between his junior and senior years of high school.
Albrecht served with the 725th Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division out of Fort Richardson, Alaska.
"He was proud to be in the service," said Denise Albrecht. "He took it serious. It was his job. It was his profession. It was what he did, it was what he got paid for, and that's where he went."
The Department of Defense Web site reports that as of Tuesday, 3,424 soldiers are confirmed dead during the conflict in Iraq.