Body of missing Lawrence soldier discovered in Iraq

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Jeannie Nuss & Milton J. Valencia
Globe Correspondent And Globe Staff / July 10, 2008

The body of Alex R. Jimenez, a Lawrence-based soldier who was kidnapped more than a year ago, has been found in Iraq in a tragic ending to a family's wrenching hope for his return.

Jimenez's father, Ramon "Andy'' Jimenez, was notified by Army servicemen who came to his home yesterday that his son's body was found two days ago by Iraqi authorities, who contacted their American counterparts.

The elder Ramirez, who had held out hope that he would one day see his son's return, seemed to come to terms with the news.

"It comforts you when you accept something, and Alex did what he wanted to do,'' said Andy Jimenez, who was joined yesterday by friends and family, and a community of supporters who had rallied around him since Alex first went missing on May 12, 2007.

Sergeant Alex Jimenez, an Army specialist, was 25 when he and other members of the Second Brigade of the 10th Mountain Division were ambushed while on patrol on a deserted highway south of Baghdad. Several members of his unit were killed.

Jimenez and two other soldiers were kidnapped. The body of Private First Class Joseph J. Anzack Jr., 20, of Torrance, Calif. was discovered in a river just 11 days later. Private Byron W. Fouty, 19.of Waterford, Mich., is still missing. There was no information on Fouty yesterday.

Two Pentagon officials with knowledge of the case said that the military plans to announce the discovery of Jimenez's body today, in accordance with Pentagon policy that no announcement will be made until 24 hours after a family is notified.

No details were available last night on where, and how, Jimenez's body was found.

Andy Jimenez was leaving for work yesterday when he returned home quickly to retrieve a cell phone, only to see the servicemen there. They had brought a Spanish-speaking soldier to communicate with the grieving father.

Yesterday, a community that had embraced the Jimenez family continued to support the father.

"Hopefully we can just be here for them in anything that they need,'' said City Councilor Grisel Silva, who represents the district where the family lives. She was visiting with the family last night.

"It's very said, it's hitting us very closely,'' she said. "The community has strongly been very involved with the Jimenez family in this situation. The good thing is now they'll be able to have some closure.''

Jim Waring, of the New England Care for Our Military, a family support group, said the agency set up a meeting between the Fouty family and the Jimenez family with President Bush on Memorial Day, to show support. Several of the soldiers who served with their sons also spoke with the families in an arranged telephone call.

"The community spirit here has been unbelievable for the Jimenez family,'' he said. "It's just so hard for someone on the outside to know what the last year and two months have been like.''

Alex Jimenez was born in Lawrence, but his family immigrated from the Dominican Republic, giving him support from the Dominican community, too. His family has a history of serving in the army of that country.

When he was just a child, he wanted to be in the service, family and friends said. His father had always respected his decision, said family friend Wendy Luzon.

Two years ago, Jimenez came home from Iraq to attend his grandmother's funeral. But his father realized his son's love for the Army when he said he wanted to return to Iraq soon after.

"He wanted to make a difference in the galaxy, not only in the world, to bring peace to those who needed it,'' said Sandy Almonte, another family friend from Methuen.

Luzon said the long search for Alex has taken a heavy toll on his father. He has attended peace rallies and has spoken out against the war. Still, he has called members of his son's unit, who returned in September, members of his own family.

Andy Jimenez's also had to contend with many different calls from the Army— that they had found his Army ID, or his gun, or some clothing.

Yesterday was the final notice, and it brought closure.

"There's no more hope,'' Luzon said. "He kept hoping that he was coming back.''

Jimenez is the second soldier from Lawrence to die in Iraq. In September, 2005, Sergeant Pierre A. Raymond, a 28-year-old with the 28th Infantry Division, was struck by shrapnel from an improvised explosive devise. He died five days later.

As of yesterday, no plans for a burial had been finalized, but it will have full military honors.

"Every person from the mayor on down expressed their condolences,'' said Francisco Urena, Lawrence's director of veterans services. "It's been a tough time and these are things we as community leaders have prepared for.''

Bryan Bender of the Globe Staff and Globe Correspondent John Guilfoil contributed to this report.

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