Standing and holding back tears in the lobby of Veterans Service Building near the state Capitol, Lt. Col. Kevin Gutknecht of the Minnesota Army National Guard formally announced 24-year-old James Wosika's death.
"It's my sad duty to inform you today that a Minnesota National Guard soldier was killed in combat operations in Iraq," he said.
Gutknecht told reporters that circumstances surrounding Wosika's death are still under investigation, but that he was patrolling, on foot in an area near Fallujah with other Minnesota National Guard soldiers when he came upon an "improvised explosive device."
"The device detonated near Minnesota National Guard Sgt. James Wosika, killing him. No other soldiers were reported injured in this incident. We learned of the death Tuesday afternoon and we were about to notify his family shortly thereafter," according to Gutknecht.
Wosika graduated in 2000 from Highland Park High School. His family lives in St. Paul. He was deployed to Iraq last March with 2,600 other Minnesotans who are members of the the Minnesota Army National Guard 1st Brigade Combat Team. He was scheduled to wrap up his year-long tour of duty in Iraq in just a few months.
Guard officials say he is the seventh member of the Minnesota brigade to be killed since last spring's deployment. The last two killed were members of Wosika's unit. They were killed late last year.
"I am humbled to be part of an organization that has soldiers who are so dedicated and willing to make the scrafices that these young men and women have made," Gutknecht said.
Since the Iraq invasion, a total of 10 Minnesota National Guard soldiers have died there.
Guard officials say Wosika's family is asking that reporters keep their distance and that all efforts now on the part of the Minnesota Guard are to assist the family in any way possible.
Funeral arrangements for Wosika are pending.
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