'I Had A Terrible Feeling'

The youngest were fresh out of high school. The oldest were veterans of other battles who signed up for one more chance to serve their country. By last weekend, 53 American soldiers were identified as captured, killed or missing in Iraq. At least seven journalists were also reported missing or dead. Amid the thunder of war, the families tended to remember the little things: how a young father sang in the choir, how a daughter dreamed of a posting in Hawaii. For some, there may still be a happy ending; for others, only tears.


Chief Warrant Officer II David S. Williams, U.S. Army 30, Orlando, Fla. As soon as he was old enough to dream, Williams dreamed of flying. He joined the Army after high school and headed straight for flight training. After his Apache helicopter went down last week, he appeared on Iraqi TV. For Williams's father, a former Army medic, that was a relief of sorts: "Up until that point he was listed as MIA, and you always think the worst."

Specialist Edgar Adan Hernandez, U.S. Army 21, Alton, Texas "He's got a noble character," his mother, Maria de la Luz Hernandez, says in Spanish, then, inadvertently slipping into the past tense: "He was a good brother, a good son, respectful to the whole world." Hernandez, though, may well be alive; he was also shown on Iraqi TV.

Chief Warrant Officer II Ronald D. Young Jr., U.S. Army 26, Lithia Springs, Ga. Friends and relatives say the divorced father of one has always been upbeat and self-confident. He appeared--to them at least--more angry than scared in the brief video clips shown on Iraqi TV. "I believe the Lord will deliver him back to us," says his father, a Vietnam vet.

Sgt. James Riley, U.S. Army 31, Pennsauken, N.J. Riley loved his work as an Army machinist, according to his father, Athol. "He wasn't at all nervous about going over there," his father says. "He just considered it his job." Still, Athol Riley says he's very worried, especially because his son "didn't have his glasses when he was shown on TV."

Pfc. Patrick Miller, U.S. Army 23, Park City, Kans. After working as a welder, Miller enlisted last summer to help pay off student loans and was stationed at Fort Bliss. When he was deployed in December, his wife, Jessa, and children, Tyler, 4, and Makenzie, now 7 months, moved back to Kansas. Now the trees in his neighborhood are covered in yellow ribbons.

Specialist Joseph Hudson, U.S. Army 23, Alamogordo, N.M. Not long after a March 23 ambush, Hudson's mother was watch-ing a foreign newscast and saw footage of her son. "He looked so scared," she says. "I just pray to my God they take care of him."

Army Specialist Shoshana Johnson, 30, El Paso, Texas

Her name means "rose" in Hebrew, the inspiration of an aunt who once worked as a nurse in Brooklyn. But her family is Panamanian-American, and although she grew up in an Army family, she never expected to find herself on the front lines. She is fun-loving, her younger sister Nikki says: outgoing, independent and trustworthy--definitely not the kind of person who "stays in front of the TV forever and a day." Shoshana's dream was to be a chef, but culinary school costs money, and Army cook was close enough. And it seemed safe enough, too.

But early on the morning of March 23, her father, Claude, was flipping through the channels looking for a cartoon show for Johnson's 2-year-old daughter, Janelle. He happened to catch a newscast on the Spanish-language network Telemundo. "They said five Americans had been captured in Iraq," he says. "I caught 'one African-American female, 30 years old, from the 507th.' Her name was Shana. I said, 'It's got to be her'."

It was. Now her large extended family, including more than a dozen cousins, are watching and waiting. Inspired by the relatives of Elizabeth Smart, whose savvy handling of the press helped lead to the return of a 15-year-old kidnapped Utah girl, Shoshana's relations have appeared all over television and in the newspapers, publicly praying for her release. "I realized media attention is the thing that brought that girl home," says Shoshana's aunt Margaret Thorne-Henderson, who has appeared on the "Today" show. "We just want her to be treated humanely," Nikki told NEWSWEEK, "and to return home swiftly and safely."


Specialist James Kiehl, U.S. Army 22, Comfort, Texas A computer technician with the 507th Maintenance Company, Kiehl was among the missing in the convoy ambush near An Nasiriya. His father, Randy, has been monitoring war news on two televisions, three phone lines and a computer, and keeping up "a strong front and a strong face" for the media--"just in case they show James any news footage" from back home.

Pfc. Tamario Burkett, U.S. Marine Corps 21, Buffalo, N.Y. He wrote home often, and his letters were filled with advice and instructions for his five younger siblings: to focus on schoolwork and (for 15-year-old Katrina) to stay away from boys. And he also confided his own fears: would God forgive him if he killed someone in combat?

Pfc. Jessica Lynch, U.S. Army 19, Palestine, W.Va. Hawaii was supposed to be Lynch's next posting, a dream come true for a girl from a town so small she never saw a shopping mall until she was 17. But as war loomed her orders changed, and she found herself in the Middle East--where, on March 23, she disappeared near An Nasiriya.

Pvt. Brandon Sloan, U.S. Army 19, Bedford Heights, Ohio Rementa Muldrow-Pippen says her grandson "loves comedy, loves to joke, loves the Temptations, loves football and loves to eat." His father, Tandy, told a reporter he last talked to his son by telephone just three weeks before he was deployed from Fort Bliss. Then came the news that Sloan's unit was ambushed on the road to Baghdad.

Pfc. Lori Piestewa, U.S. Army 23, Tuba City, Ariz. Piestewa grew up in a military family: her grandfather fought in World War II and her father served in Vietnam. A divorced mother of two, she joined the Army in 2000. "She's a tough kid, and she keeps her head about her," her brother Wayland told a reporter after her unit ran into an ambush. "Our hope is that she's... staying alive and staying smart."

Pvt. Nolen Ryan Hutchings, U.S. Marine Corps 20, Boiling Springs, S.C. When 7-year-old Edward Nolen was adopted by his stepfather, Larry Hutchings, he took the opportunity to rename himself in honor of his hero, pitcher Nolan Ryan. On March 23 he disappeared while his unit was trying to secure a bridge outside An Nasiriya. "They'll probably find him somewhere behind a sand dune," Larry says hopefully.

Master Sgt. Robert J. Dowdy, U.S. Army 38, Cleveland, Ohio Dowdy has a wife and a teenage daughter in Louisiana.

Sgt. Donald R. Walters, U.S. Army 33, Kansas City, Mo. The first gulf war left Walters shaken--literally. Back home, "he would sit and shake," says his father, Norman, because of the "terrible things he saw." He finally left the Army two years ago. After drifting through various jobs, divorcing and remarrying, the father of three re-enlisted last summer. His unit ran into an ambush near An Nasiriya.

Chief Warrant Officer Johnny Villareal Mata, U.S. Army 35, Pecos, Texas Mata grew up in a desert town just 200 miles from Fort Bliss, where his 507th Maintenance Company is based.

Cpl. Kemaphoom A. Chanawongse, U.S. Marine Corps 22, Waterford, Conn. He was born in Thailand, came to America at the age of 8 and joined the Marines despite the fears of his mother, Tan Patchem. "He loved being a Marine," she says, but "he's my baby." Though Chanawongse has been missing since March 23, his mother is confident she will see him again. "Maybe tomorrow he will show up," she says.

Cpl. Patrick R. Nixon, U.S. Marine Corps 21, Gallatin, Tenn. Debra and David Nixon still use the present tense when talking about their son, who has been missing since a battle last week in southern Iraq. Nixon's 7-year-old niece says she won't go back to her favorite pizza parlor "until her Uncle Pat takes her," his mother says.

Pvt. Ruben Estrella-Soto, U.S. Army 18, El Paso, Texas His father opposed his enlisting, but he wanted to study engineering, and the military seemed like a good way to get his education paid for. He disappeared in the ambush on March 23, along with his friend Edgar Hernandez, who later turned up on Iraqi TV. But Estrella-Soto's fate was unknown. "Not knowing anything is hard," Ruben Estrella Sr. told reporters.

Lance Cpl. Donald John Cline Jr., U.S. Marine Corps 21, Reno, Nev. "I just look at my kids and I have to have hope," says his wife, Tina, who married Cline the day after he finished boot camp. Last week their 2-year-old son Dakota received in the mail a hand-carved pickup truck his father had made. His wife is sure he's alive. "I feel it so deeply in my heart," she says. "He has too many people that love him."

Pvt. Jonathan Gifford, U.S. Marine Corps 30, Macon, Ill. For nearly a decade Gifford had struggled with whether to join the military, his family says. Last year he joined the Marines.

Lance Cpl. Thomas A. Blair, U.S. Marine Corps 24, Broken Arrow, Okla. Blair joined the Marines in 1997 after graduating from Broken Arrow High School, where he led the percussion section of the school band.


Marine Cpl. Jose A. Garibay, 21, Costa Mesa, Calif.

The suburban house where Garibay lived has an American flag in front, as you might expect, and a Mexican one as well, for the country where he was born, two months before he made the trip to the United States with his mother, Simona. Except for speaking Spanish at home--and even that isn't all that unusual--he was a typical Orange County kid, playing football for his high school and listening to Marilyn Manson, before joining the Marines right out of high school in --2000. He didn't want his mother to worry, so he hid the fact that he'd been ordered into combat, but in early March he wrote her from Kuwait, sounding homesick: he asked her to send some of his favorite Mexican candy and a CD of sentimental ranchera music. "That's the first time he was ever interested in Mexican music," said his sister Crystal, 18.

He also sent another letter, tape-recorded, to his uncle, thanking him for everything he'd done for the family and wondering if he'd make it back from Iraq alive. And to a former teacher he wrote: "I want to defend the country I plan to become a citizen of." He never got the chance: on March 23 he was killed in a fire fight near An Nasiriya with Iraqis who had deceived the Americans by feigning surrender. The Marines who went to the front door of the family's ranch house to break the news mentioned that he might be eligible for honorary posthumous citizenship, but, as Crystal says, "it doesn't matter now."

Marine Lance Cpl. David K. Fribley, 26, Ft. Myers, Fla.

The last time Gary Fribley spoke with his son, he gave him some advice, based on what he'd heard about an earlier war. "I told him that in Vietnam, they had little kids with hand grenades under their armpits," Fribley told NEWSWEEK. "This is a war and there are no rules. Don't trust anybody." Fribley's fears were prescient. Nine Marines died on March 23 when a group of Iraqi soldiers pretended to surrender, then pulled out weapons and began firing; David was among them.

It was the terror attacks of September 11 that inspired Fribley to quit his job at a southern Florida retirement home and sign up with the Marines--ending his farewell letter to his co-workers with the Corps' slogan, "Semper Fidelis." He was an all-conference football player and a track-and-field star (shot put and hammer throw) at Warsaw Community High School in Indiana--"one of the best we've had here," according to athletic director Dave Fulkerson. He went on to graduate with a degree in recreational-business administration from Indiana State, and was engaged to a woman he met just before he enlisted. Shortly after arriving in Kuwait, he told his mother that conditions in Iraq were "worse than you can imagine," adding: "Something has to be done." The military offered the Fribleys a plot for their son in Arlington National Cemetery, but the Fribleys have turned it down, saying they want their son to be buried nearby. "His mother and I want him home," Gary Fribley told a reporter.

Lt. Thomas M. Adams, U.S. Navy 27, La Mesa, Calif. Adams, descended from two presidents, became the first Navy officer to die in the war when his Royal Navy Sea King helicopter collided with another chopper shortly after takeoff. Six British troops were also killed in the crash.

Maj. Jay Thomas Aubin, U.S. Marine Corps 36, Waterville, Maine His father flew puddle-jumpers in the Maine woods, and Aubin began riding with him in the cockpit when he was 2. He joined the Marines right after high school, hoping to become a fighter pilot, but his eyesight fell just short, so he settled for flying helicopters. Aubin--married to a Marine, with a son and a daughter--became one of the first casualties of the war when his CH-46 Sea Knight chopper crashed.

Sgt. Michael E. Bitz, U.S. Marine Corps 31, Ventura, Calif. "This time around I had this terrible feeling," says his mother, Donna Bellman, who had encouraged Bitz to join the Marines after a few aimless years after high school. "He loved the service and direction and purpose in his life." He was killed March 23 near An Nasiriya, leaving behind a widow, Janina, and four young children.

Capt. Ryan Beaupre, U.S. Marine Corps 30, St. Anne, Ill. A graduate of Illinois Wesleyan University, Beaupre quit an accounting job to join the Marines so he could fly. Before he was killed in a March 21 helicopter crash he had hoped to get back to the States in time for his sister's wedding in May. "He's the kind of kid you want your daughter to marry, you want your son to be," says Patricia Gould, a family friend. "This is when war hits home."

Cpl. Evan James, U.S. Marine Corps 20, La Harpe, Ill. James's death on March 24 is a mystery; the combat engineer, a onetime lifeguard, drowned while trying to swim the 30-yard-wide Saddam Canal in southeastern Iraq. "They do all sorts of training for this type of thing," says Sgt. Sean Bontkowski, who served with James.

Cpl. Jorge Gonzalez, U.S. Marine Corps 20, Rialto, Calif. "If you can wait just a little, we'll see each other in the summer, God willing," Gonzalez wrote his parents on March 10. Two weeks later, as they watched a newscast on the Spanish-language network Telemundo, they saw footage from Al-Jazeera of four Marines who had been killed in the fighting outside An Nasiriya. An Iraqi soldier lifted one of the bodies for the camera, and the parents recognized their son. Left behind was his wife, Jazty, and a 3-week-old son he never saw.

Capt. Christopher Seifert, U.S. Army 27, Williams Township, Pa. An avid soldier who spent his college years training with the ROTC, Seifert died in Kuwait last week when another U.S. soldier reportedly lobbed hand grenades into his tent. He leaves behind a wife and a 4-month-old son.

Cpl. Brian Matthew Kennedy, U.S. Marine Corps 25, Houston, Texas Kennedy, who was born and grew up in Glenview, Ill., called his mother on March 18 to tell her he was about to go into action. "It was very short and very special," she says of the call. Three days later he died when his Sea Knight helicopter crashed in Kuwait.

Lance Cpl. Jose Gutierrez, U.S. Marine Corps 22, Lomita, Calif. He was an orphan on the streets of Guatemala City who heard about America from the minister at a children's shelter; at the age of 14, by walking and jumping freight trains, he made his way to California, where he was brought up in foster homes. He joined the Marines to make money for college--and to send to a sister in Guatemala. "Pray for all of us, not just me," he wrote his foster mother on March 1.

Cpl. Randal Kent Rosacker, U.S. Marine Corps 21, San Diego, Calif. His father, Rod, a Navy submariner, wanted Rosacker to go to college; instead he joined the Marines. "I couldn't stop him," Rod Rosacker says. "I guess my son liked the life he saw me live." Rod and his son both shipped out at the same time in January; the father got back home just in time to hear the terrible news.

Sgt. Nicolas M. Hodson, U.S. Marine Corps 22, Smithville, Mo. Hodson, who died in a road accident on March 23, leaves behind a twin sister, Nicole, and a 1-year-old son, Marius.

Specialist Gregory P. Sanders, U.S. Army 19, Hobart, Ind. As the son of a Navy veteran, Sanders always wanted to join the military. He was shot to death by a sniper in the Iraqi desert on March 24. His mother, Leslie, told reporters she had had a "bad feeling" all that day.

Staff Sgt. Kendall Damon Watersbey, U.S. Marine Corps 29, Baltimore, Md. A convert to Islam, Watersbey served in the first gulf war. He was killed in a chopper crash in Kuwait and leaves behind a 10-year-old son, Kenneth.

Maj. Gregory L. Stone, U.S. Air Force 40, Boise, Idaho Flying was his passion from childhood. "All of his birthday cakes were airplanes," recalls his half-brother, Frank Lenzi. Stone, the father of two, died when a disgruntled sergeant threw grenades into command tents at Camp Pennsylvania.

Lance Cpl. Brian Rory Buesing, U.S. Marine Corps 20, Cedar Key, Fla. His father and grandfather had served in the Marines, and Buesing couldn't wait to enlist, joining less than a month after graduating from high school. "He never showed any sign of fear," says his stepfather, Roger Steve. Buesing was killed on March 23 in a fire fight with Iraqi soldiers who had feigned surrender.

Second Lt. Therrel Shane Childers, U.S. Marine Corps 30, Harrison County, Miss. He fell in love with the Marines at the age of 5, when his father, a Navy Seabee, took him on a visit to the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran. "He saw those Marines in their dress blues guarding the embassy, and he wanted to be one himself," Joseph Childers recalls. He was one of the first ground casualties of the war, killed on March 21 while leading his platoon toward an oil-pumping station in southern Iraq.

Sgt. Bradley Korthaus, U.S. Marine Corps 28, Davenport, Iowa Korthaus, the son and grandson of Marines, "was raring to go" into combat, says his grandmother Marietta Smeaton partly because, as a bachelor, he thought it was his duty to risk his life before men with families. He drowned along with Cpl. Evan James while crossing the Saddam Canal.

Specialist Jamaal Addison, U.S. Army 22, Roswell, Ga. Like many young soldiers, Addison, who had a 2-year-old son, also named Jamaal, was more interested in going to college someday than in fighting a war (although he supported it, says the minister at his family's church). Just before he went into combat he called his wife, Tekla, and shared his fears with her; he was killed on March 23.

Staff Sgt. Phillip Jordan, U.S. Marine Corps 42, Brazoria, Texas Everyone called him Gump because he was so relentlessly upbeat. His son, Tyler, 6, wants to be a Marine like his father, who was killed in a fire fight after a group of Iraqi soldiers feigned surrender.

Lance Cpl. Michael J. Williams, U.S. Marine Corps 31, Phoenix, Ariz. Heather Strange thought he was missing but got word over the weekend that her fiance, who proposed to her by e-mail from a ship bound for Kuwait, had died. The Marines would not confirm the report.

Second Lt. Frederick E. Pokorney Jr., U.S. Marines 31, Tonopah, Nev. "He was determined to succeed in life," says Wade Lieseke, formerly the Nye County sheriff, who took Pokorney in at 16 after his mother died and his father abandoned him. Pokorney was commissioned at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, N.C., where his widow, Carolyn, and daughter, Taylor, 2, live.

Lance Cpl. Eric J. Orlowski, U.S. Marine Corps 26, Buffalo, N.Y. His daughter, Cameryn, 3, last talked to her father just 18 hours before he was killed by a machine-gun accident. During that last conversation Orlowski told her that when he came home, he would take her to Disney World.

Pfc. Howard Johnson II, U.S. Army 21, Mobile, Ala. It was a comfort to his father that Johnson was in a rear-echelon supply unit, and not facing combat on the front lines. But still, on the young man's last visit home in January the senior Johnson, a Baptist preacher, had a premonition. "I got the feeling I was seeing my son for the last time," he says. Johnson died in the ambush of the 507th Maintenance Company.

Maj. Kevin Nave, U.S. Marine Corps 36, White Lake Township, Mich. His daughter, Maeve, turned 5 on March 27, the same day his family received word of his death. He and his wife, Carrie, also have a son, Anthony, 6. He appeared on NBC News on March 19, just an hour before President Bush's deadline to Saddam Hussein, and declared himself ready for war: "We will use all of our skill and the tools of our trade to take the fight to the enemy."

Specialist Brandon S. Tobler, U.S. Army Reserve 19, Portland, Ore. Tobler dreamed of a career in law enforcement and enlisted in the Reserves to earn money for college. His family says he loved to ride his bike, hike on Portland's Mount Tabor and drink Beck's beer. He also possessed a masterful and hilarious ability to affect French, English and Scottish accents. He died in a sandstorm when his Humvee smashed into another vehicle.

Lance Cpl. Jesus Suarez de Solar, U.S. Marine Corps 20, Escondido, Calif. A native of Tijuana, Suarez immigrated to the United States with his family in the late 1990s and graduated from Escondido's Valley High School in 2001. He leaves behind a wife and a baby, Erik.

Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Menusa, U.S. Marine Corps 33, Tracy, Calif. Born in the Philippines, Menusa moved to America with his mother at 10 and fell in love with his new country. He joined the Marines after high school; his wife, Stacy, learned he had died while visiting her mother last week with the couple's 3-year-old son, Joshua.

Hospital Corpsman 3/c Michael Vann Johnson, U.S. Navy 25, Little Rock, Ark. On March 25 he was on the front lines, tending to wounded Marines. "There was a grenade, and shrapnel hit him in the head," his sister, Janisa Hooks, told reporters. "The men he trained with, they were brothers. He felt there was a need for him to be there."

Lance Cpl. Thomas J. Slocum, U.S. Marines 22, Thornton, Colo. He sang in the choir and kept a picture of his girlfriend, Kristy Urbanic, tucked in a pocket next to his heart. In a letter Urbanic received last week, Slocum wrote: "Hi Beautiful... I've been training hard and becoming smarter, harder, faster and deadlier every day." A day before she read those words, Slocum was killed in an ambush near An Nasiriya.

Written by Jerry Adler, Barbara Kantrowitz and Geoffrey Cowley. Reported by Sarah Downey, Daniel Dorfman, Donatella Lorch, Dirk Johnson, Andrew Murr, Jamie Reno, Ken Shulman, Joseph Contreras, Pat Wingert, Vanessa Juarez, Julie Scelfo, Suzanne Smalley, Joan Raymond, Nadine Joseph, Brad Stone, Mark Miller and Steve Friess, and by NEWSWEEK researchers Ruth Tenenbaum, Lisa Bergtraum and Rena Kirsch.