Wounded U.S. Soldiers Shocked at Iraqi Resistance
By Jeff Mason
Reuters - Thursday 27 March 2003:
For them, the war is over. A few U.S. soldiers were half
the way home on Thursday, bearing wounds inflicted by
Iraqis they thought they were liberating.
Two army soldiers and one marine recounted to journalists
how they came under fire at the weekend from Iraqi troops
in civilian dress at the city of Nassiriya, scene of some
of the fiercest fighting to date.
"We were very surprised. We were told when we were going
through Nassiriya that we would see little to no
resistance," Marine Lance Corporal Joshua Menard told a
news conference at the U.S. military's medical facilities
at Landstuhl, Germany.
A group of Iraqis in civilian clothes opened fire on
Menard as he and six other marines approached them on a
bridge near Nassiriya on Sunday, he said.
"We were more prepared for what happened in the Gulf War
when they turned over and surrendered most of the time...
They weren't rolling over like we thought they would,"
Menard, 21, from Houston, Texas, said, with his left hand
Beside him, in hospital robes, sat Army Staff Sergeant
Jamie Villafane and Sergeant Charles Horganof the First
Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment. They told of being
hurled out of their Humvee jeep by an Iraqi missile in a
"The amount of resistance, some of it I don't understand.
I mean we're there to help them to get them out of the
regime. But you have to understand they are being
threatened to fight against us," said Villafane, 31, from
Long Island, New York, his heavily bandaged left arm
resting on a pillow.
JUST LIKE THE MOVIES
Villafane said his battalion had been briefed that Iraqi
soldiers might disguise themselves in civilian clothes,
but he was still surprised when it happened.
"It was a shock that they would actually do that given the
treatment we try to give them. We try to treat them
fairly... I guess they have to do whatever they have to,"
Horgan, 21, from Helena, Montana, said he was less
surprised to see Iraqi troops fighting back.
Horgan, whose right leg and foot were ripped open when he
was blown from his gunning position, described seeing an
incoming missile and barely having time to warn his
colleagues before it struck.
"It was just like in the movies. I thought 'Oh my God, I'm
going to die'," he said, adding he feared as he was thrown
to the ground that he might lose his legs.
"I looked down and saw I had my legs. I was pretty
relieved about that."
The three wounded men said they felt a sense of guilt at
leaving friends behind in Iraq.
"I'm relieved that I'm out of that sort of thing. I'm also
kind of sad that I'm not with the guys who protected me,"
Horgan told reporters.
All three will head for the United States for further
treatment, Horgan needing extensive physiotherapy if he is
to walk again.
Villafane said that before the war he had already had
thoughts about ending his term in the military, after 12
years of service.
"I made a decision before this actually started with my
family that I was going to get out... This kind of just
put the icing on the cake," he said.
Horgan said his thoughts were more on recovering.
"Nobody can be shot and say 'Wow, I really want to go back
out there. That was great'," he said.
The three also said they hoped any anti-war sentiment at
home would not turn into acrimony against soldiers.
"You may be against the war, but don't be against the
soldiers there who are fighting it. I joined to serve my
country but when I was there I was fighting to protect my
friends," Horgan said.
Landstuhl, America's largest military hospital outside the
United States, is currently treating 72 patients from
"Operation Iraqi Freedom," 24 of them wounded in combat.
Five are in intensive care. The hospital is expanding to
320 beds, doubling its normal capacity.
Families of Ft. Bliss Soldiers Begin Asking Hard Questions
by Scott Gold and Tom Gorman
Los Angeles Times - Thursday 27 March 2003
FT. BLISS, Texas -- Jamaal R. Addison, 22, a straight-A
student who joined the Army days after graduating from
high school to secure a future for his infant son, is
And for what? That's what Addison's relatives wanted to
know late Wednesday as they struggled to absorb the
Pentagon's confirmation that the Army specialist had been
killed in battle.
In all, military officials said Wednesday, 15 Ft. Bliss
soldiers from the 507th Maintenance Company had been
captured or killed by Iraqi forces.
The numbers seem to rise each day, and tough questions are
percolating at this west Texas military base.
"We just found out. My mind is just messed up right now,"
said Rodney Fisher, 23, an Amityville, N.Y., resident who
went to high school with Addison and later became his
stepbrother when his mother married Addison's father.
"I never thought there was a reason to go to war in the
first place. This sure as hell doesn't make it any better.
This was a good man. He didn't deserve this. This whole
thing is nonsense."
Last weekend, about three dozen soldiers from the 507th --
cooks, welders, drivers and mechanics who provided support
to a Patriot missile battalion and did not expect to see
combat -- were trying to connect with an infantry division
in southern Iraq. Near Nasiriyah, the site of some of the
fiercest firefights so far, the group apparently made a
wrong turn, military officials have said.
They were ambushed by Iraqi troops. U.S. Marines were able
to rescue more than half of them. The military has
confirmed that two were killed, eight are missing and five
-- soldiers whose images were captured on video by Iraqi
fighters and broadcast across the globe -- are prisoners
The identities of six more of the soldiers were confirmed
Wednesday. Those classified as missing include Master Sgt.
Robert J. Dowdy, 38, of Cleveland; Pvt. Ruben
Estrella-Soto, 18, of El Paso; Chief Warrant Officer
Johnny Villareal Mata, 35, of El Paso; and Sgt. Donald
Ralph Walters, 33, of Salem, Ore.
Killed were Addison of Roswell, Ga., and Army Pfc. Howard
Johnson II, 21, of Mobile, Ala.
"Our mission is to nurture the living, care for the
wounded and honor the dead," Ft. Bliss chaplain Fred
Hudson said in an interview Wednesday evening. "And at
this phase, we are honoring the dead."
Hudson said families connected to Ft. Bliss suddenly have
a host of questions for military officials, depending on
the circumstances their relative is in. Families of the
dead typically have questions about legal, financial and
emotional concerns. Families of the wounded want to know
when they can be reunited. Families of POWs want to know
what kind of conditions their loved ones are being kept
"The families who are really hurting are the families
whose loved ones' whereabouts are unknown," Hudson said.
"That's a horrible situation. You are waiting any day for
the worst. That's a very difficult and very sobering thing
to deal with."
One of those families is that of Walters, a
"After the military came to the door last night and told
us, officially, that he's listed as MIA, it really hit,"
Walters' father, Norman, said Wednesday.
"I was stunned. It's like it's not real. I couldn't
comprehend it. Today is bad. I'm really feeling down. I
was shaving this morning and all of a sudden, I was
Norman Walters was in the Air Force for 20 years, and
Donald liked the discipline and the military environment
while growing up in Colorado. Donald joined the Army in
1988, served in the Persian Gulf War in 1991, joined the
reserves and then reenlisted in the Army about a year ago.
He and his wife, Stacie, have a 9-month-old daughter named
"About a week ago, we talked to him by phone," Norman
Walters said. "He was notifying us that he was going to be
going in very shortly. He was nervous about it, but he
wanted to get in there. He was anxious to get in there and
get it over with so he could come home."
Although the media have sought to report on the families
of the captured and slain, military personnel asked
reporters Wednesday to respect the families' privacy. In a
statement, Ft. Bliss officials cautioned that statements
from the families "could be used to coerce and manipulate
soldiers who are being held prisoners of war."
The message appeared to carry weight with some, including
the family of Dowdy, the master sergeant who is two years
away from retirement. "I've been instructed by the
military not to talk about my brother," Jack Dowdy said
from his home in Hawaii. "Anything we give can be used by
the Iraqis against him."