STEWARTVILLE, Minn. -- A 23-year-old Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier was killed in a firefight in Afghanistan shortly after he called Minnesota to wish his little brother a happy birthday, his mother said Monday.
Sgt. Nicholas Dickhut died Sunday in southern Afghanistan's Kandahar province. The Army said he was assigned to the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
"I'm still processing this," his mother, Jacqueline Carson, of Rochester, told the Rochester Post-Bulletin.
A man who answered the phone at the home of Dickhut's mother confirmed the death to The Associated Press, but said there was a gag order and the family would not talk further. U.S. officials hadn't publicly announced his death by Monday night.
Carson said her son graduated from Stewartville High School and studied at Rochester Community and Technical College. He also worked as a supervisor at Office Max before enlisting in the Army.
"He called to wish his brother a happy birthday," Carson said, describing her last conversation with her son. "He called right before the firefight, right before the mission."
Dickhut's brother, David, turned 9 and idolizes his older brother, she said.
"On Saturday, we were talking on Facebook, and he was asking what present to send," Carson said. "He was thinking about re-upping and re-enlisting and asking my opinion."