A 21-year-old Pike County man was among the 17 soldiers killed in Iraq this past weekend when two Black Hawk helicopters collided, family members said Monday.
"The Army came to our house Sunday to tell us,'' said Joe DiGiovanni of the Pricedale community, father of Spc. Jeremy DiGiovanni. "This is a real tough time for our family.''
Jeremy DiGiovanni was crew chief on one of the helicopters and was a member of the A Company, 4th Battalion, 101st Airborne Division based at Fort Campbell, Ky. He is the eighth Mississippian to die in Iraq.
DiGiovanni, owner of a country store in the town east of McComb, said family members met Monday with Army officials from Fort Polk, La., to discuss funeral arrangements. He said the funeral would be held at Calvary Baptist Church in Pricedale but that the date of the services would depend on when his son's body is returned home.
Military officials have not determined the cause of Saturday's collision - the deadliest single incident involving American servicemen since the Iraq war began March 20.
Joe DiGiovanni said his son had joined the Army on Nov. 8, 2000, and went through basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C. He later received training for his job aboard the helicopter at Fort Houston, Va.
"What he was doing was very important to him,'' Joe DiGiovanni said. "It was 250 miles an hour, pants on fire with both doors open - he was a Black Hawk crew chief and he lived to get in that helicopter and fly.''
Joe DiGiovanni said that when he spoke to his son in Iraq, "I got the impression he was extremely busy, working very hard. And I think he tried to keep stories and rhetoric to a minimum so not to make us worry.''
Jeremy DiGiovanni's parents divorced 17 years ago and he was raised by his father and his stepmother, who now lives in Florida. DiGiovanni said his son had a stepbrother and two stepsisters on his side of the family and two half brothers and three half sisters on his mother's side.
"I will remember him as a great guy,'' the father said. "He was always humorous and jovial. He never liked to see anybody with their feelings hurt or upset.''