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Sunday, April 13

Families of soldiers killed in ambush rejoice for POWs

By Diana Washington Valdez | El Paso Times

The families of three 507th Maintenance Company soldiers who were killed March 23 in Iraq said they were glad the five Fort Bliss POWs were now safe.

Military officials said nine members of the 507th were killed in action. Although details are sketchy, apparently the soldiers were killed in a firefight with Iraqi forces loyal to President Saddam Hussein.

The attack was a big blow for the Fort Bliss unit, because nearly 20 percent of the company's 100 soldiers were killed, injured or taken captive.

Pvt. Ruben Estrella-Soto's aunt, Leticia Guillen Soto, said the family of the fallen soldier was watching the Univision television network when they saw Spc. Edgar Hernandez's father being interviewed. Hernandez, 21, was a close friend of her nephew.

``We are very happy that they found Edgar and the rest of the prisoners,'' she said. ``God is great. We know that Ruben gave his life trying to save the others.''

George Roberts of Conyers, Ga., grandfather of Spc. Jamaal Addison, 21, who was killed in action the day the 507th was ambushed, saw the news Sunday about the POWs on television.

``I'm very happy that they found the POWs, that they found them alive,'' Roberts said. ``But I still want to know what happened to them out there. I want to know what happened to my grandson.''

Jack Dowdy Jr., brother of Master Sgt. Robert J. Dowdy, 38, the company's first sergeant, said he and his parents in Cleveland were happy for the soldiers who were found alive.

``We found out from the TV news, and we're very proud that they found them alive and well,'' Dowdy said.

Dowdy had also hoped that his brother would be among those who were found alive, but the military confirmed by use of dental records that the soldier was killed in action.

``We're still seeking closure, which we won't have until we know how my brother was killed,'' Dowdy said. ``We've heard conflicting reports about what happened, and we need to know what really took place.''

Officials initially said the 507th soldiers took a wrong turn and encountered hostile forces. Later, U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, said the service members were attacked when they got separated from a supply convoy they were traveling with.

Reyes said the ambushed soldiers got left behind when they had to stop to repair a couple of stalled vehicles.

Other relatives of 507th members who were killed in action were not available for comment.