Melissa DiMona remembers the last thing she said to her son, Army Spc. Nicholas Peter DiMona III, before he took part in a live-fire training exercise in Alaska's interior.
"I just said, 'Please Nick. Just be careful. Just be careful. I love you Nick. I love you,'" the heartbroken mother told NBC10. "And he's like, 'Mom, I love you, too. I'm always careful.'"
Two hours after the phone call, she saw two men in uniform at her front door in Medford Lakes, New Jersey.
"I saw their faces," Melissa DiMona said. "I just knew. I knew that look."
It's the same look she saw in 2004, when her husband, also a soldier, died during a training exercise. Their son, Nick, was 5 years old at the time. On Saturday, 15 years later, Nick was shot during an early-morning drill at the Donnelly Training area near Fort Greely.
Officials say medics at the scene provided care to Nick DiMona III. He was flown to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. He was 20-years-old.
"That is my heart," Melissa DiMona said. "It's like somebody took my heart and soul and just took it somewhere and it's just gone."
The widow said her son always wanted to be like his father. After he graduated from Shawnee High School in Medford Lakes, he joined the Army in 2017 and became a specialist and paratrooper. He was based at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage.
U.S. Army Alaska spokesman John Pennell said the investigation will look at anyone responsible for firing the fatal round.
Pennell said the exercise is part of ongoing readiness training. He didn’t know of any similar deaths in Alaska during exercises.
As the investigation continues, Melissa DiMona said she wants answers.
"Why were they using live rounds near him?" she asked. "Why would they put him in a proximity where he could be shot? When my husband got killed, it was a training accident. Now this is another training accident."