Staff Sgt. Henry E. Irizarry

The Hartford Courant

Army Staff Sgt. Henry E. Irizarry of Waterbury died Dec. 3, 1004 in Taji, Iraq, when a roadside bomb detonated near his vehicle. He was 38 years old.

WATERBURY -- A 38-year-old soldier from Waterbury was killed in Iraq when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle, the Department of Defense announced Monday.

Staff Sgt. Henry E. Irizarry died Friday in Taji, where his unit was on patrol, the department said.

``He wasn't happy about going to Iraq, but he knew it was his duty,'' said his widow, Jessica Irizarry, who said she learned of her husband's death Friday night. ``He was in the reserves for 20 years, and he took the responsibility seriously. He was such a good man.''

Irizarry was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry Regiment, of New York. Army officials said Irizzary's duties included reconnaissance and gathering information on the enemy.

On Monday, however, it was not his military ability that his wife recalled, but the personal side of a man she described as the love of her life and ``the best father in the world.''

``He loved his children more than anything,'' said Jessica Irizarry, who met her husband in New York, where they both lived before moving to Waterbury six years ago.

``We met through a friend,'' she recalled. ``And even after all these years of being married, I still loved the way he still looked at me. I knew from the look how much I meant to him.''

The family moved to Connecticut in 1997. They were married for seven years, and have three children. He has two from a previous relationship, and was a grandfather.

Jessica Irizarry described her husband as kind and generous, taking delight in making sure the couple and their children took a vacation each year and spent time together whenever possible.

``He loved Disney World in Florida,'' she said. ``And he loved to go to movies.''

Henry Irizarry was a leader at Aposento Alto Pentecostal Church in Waterbury.

``Church was very important to him,'' his wife said.

He was employed at Industrial Heaters in Waterbury.

State and local officials mourned the loss of another Connecticut resident.

"It is so sad to hear of the death of another soldier from Connecticut," said Gov. M. Jodi Rell. "We are seeing once again that war is taking a heavy toll on our nation's servicemen and women, as well as their families and friends. I ask everyone in our state to help Staff Sergeant Irizarry's family through this tragedy by keeping them in their thoughts and prayers. I also ask everyone to honor his service by keeping in their prayers all of the men and women now risking their lives overseas to serve our nation."

Waterbury Mayor Michael J. Jarjura also offered condolences.

``I and our city are greatly saddened by the loss of this brave Waterburian who was fighting for the liberty and freedom in the world,'' Jarjura said in a statement. ``Our thoughts and prayers are with his entire family, and the city will do whatever it can to assist them. We salute Army Staff Sgt. Irizarry's bravery, and are moved by the sacrifices he and all enlisted men and women make for their country.''

State flags are already at half-staff in honor of Army Lt. Col. Michael J. McMahon, who died Nov. 27 in a plane crash in Afghanistan.

Rell has ordered state flags to remain at half-staff until both soldiers have been interred. Details of funeral arrangements have not been announced for either McMahon or Irizarry.

At least 21 people with Connecticut ties have died in Iraq or Afghanistan since 2002.

Staff Writer Anne Marie Somma contributed to this story, which also includes a wire report.

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